Polish Woman Says She Was Dragged Out Of Church After Unfurling Anti-Racism Banner

A Polish woman says she was booted out of a Catholic church service in Warsaw while protesting against racism and far-right nationalist groups.

Gabriela Lazarek disrupted a Mass at St. Barbara’s Church in Warsaw on Nov. 11, the Catholic Herald reports, unfurling a banner quoting former Pope St. John Paul II that read, “Racism is a sin.” 

Many of those in attendance at the Mass were also planning to participate in an annual march for Poland’s Independence Day, according to the Herald. The controversial march has become a magnet for far-right, anti-Semitic and white supremacist groups.

In a Facebook post, Lazarek said she heard the Catholic priest at the service “warmly” welcome and bless nationalist groups. She also spotted people wearing armbands for the National Radical Camp, a far-right group founded before World War II that holds anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant views.

“I saw banners linking religion to nationalism,” she wrote. “The priest talked about the power of the national church. He said to remember the teachings of JP II [Pope John Paul II] and never to deny or be embarrassed by them. That’s when I unfolded my banner.”

The words of her banner are taken from a sermon given in 2001 by John Paul II, who was born in Poland. In full, the banner reads, “Racism is a sin that constitutes a serious offense against God.”

Lazarek claimed that attendees then stood up and tried to take the banner away. 

“They tried to drag me through the church by my clothes, shouting ‘Out! Get out of here!’” she wrote. “I was pushed out of the church and landed brutally on the steps outside the door, and the door was slammed shut behind me.”

“This is the image of today’s Catholic church.”

It’s unclear who escorted Lazarek out of the church, and whether she was removed for protesting against racism or interrupting a holy service. The Warsaw’s Catholic Archdiocese did not respond to a request for comment.

Nevertheless, Lazarek’s activism highlighted ongoing cultural tensions in Poland. 

Protesters carry Polish flags and National Radical Camp flags during a rally organized by far-right, nationalist groups to mark the 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw, Poland, on Nov. 11, 2017. (Agencja Gazeta / Reuters)

Poland’s Independence Day commemorates the country’s reemergence as a sovereign nation after World War I. Since 2009, Poland’s far-right groups have organized a national march on this day.

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