“This is a land that all of Poland should look at, especially today, because it is exemplary,” he said in the town of Sokólka, noting that Roman Catholics live side by side in the region with citizens of the Russian Orthodox faith, as well as Muslims.
“Different cultures and traditions have mingled here for many centuries,” he stressed, adding that there is a “wonderful coexistence.”
The president also visited a 19th century mosque in the village of Bohoniki, where he was welcomed by Tomasz Miśkiewicz, mufti of Poland's Muslim Religious Association.
Referring to refugees who may come to Poland in the near future, as “they have been forced out of their countries owing to fear for their lives,” he spoke of the example set by the Tatar community.
“I would like all those who come to Poland, on finding themselves in our country, to feel the same inner need and conviction to be of service to their new homeland and society that lives her.”
Earlier this week, President Duda spoke out against what he referred to as the “dictates” of stronger EU countries, amid a push by the European Commission for member states to take quotas of refugees, mainly Syrians and Eritreans.
Poland agreed in July to take in 2,000 refugees. However, President of the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on EU member states to divide up 160,000 people in a policy of “solidarity”.
It is estimated that there are between 3,000 and 5,000 Tatars living in Poland today. Owing to assimilation over the centuries, many Poles have Tatar backgrounds. The late Nobel Prize-winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz had Tatar roots, as does internationally renowned sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz.
All in all, it is estimated that up to 25,000 Muslims currently live in Poland, including foreign students, businessmen and refugees, mainly from the Russian Caucasus. (nh/rk)