A HUMAN FACE OF FINANCES
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
It is not the first time I have been writing, while being impressed by the activity of Credit Unions, this time also impressed by 1400 representatives of cooperative unions from 53 countries who attended the Congress of the World Council of Credit Unions in Gdansk. I admired the organisation of this meeting, interpreted into a few languages very fluently. It was held on the 20th anniversary of Credit Unions, whose the headquarters is Gdansk, in the presence of the chairman of the National Credit Unions – Grzegorz Bierecki, the first vice-president of the Congress of the World Council of Credit Unions and the Management and Academic Council of Credit Unions whose member I am.
The idea of Credit Cash Saving Unions derives from the person of Franciszek Stefczyk (1861 – 1924), a creator of the Polish Cooperative Loan-Saving Organisation, based on principles of the Christian social teaching. After some time his initiative became popular under the name of ‘Stefczyk’s’ Credit Unions’. Today there are works carried out which are a preparation for the beatification process of the patron of this cooperative movement in Poland . We hope that this idea of assistance will unite as many people in Poland and the world as possible.
What is it about in Credit Unions? In order to one could locate his savings through a network of Credit Unions, spread in whole country, in a modern and safe way, and one could become a member-co-owner of the Credit Unions and also lend money if somebody of the members is in need. In the recent years banks, also big world banks have got in a difficult situation and due to it, the economic balance of the world faltered. In many countries people withdrew their savings from banks and transferred them to the cooperative credit unions. The credit unions have also developed which have a democratic character because they allow also their not rich members to use their benefits. They also have evangelical dimension because they are trying to help the poor who are harassed by various troubles. Certainly, credit unions must be still developing and comprise also other sectors of economy where people should be helped. For example, whirlwinds and floods have come to Poland recently, there is a lot of destruction and people could not afford at least insurance fees and now they cannot expect a suitable help. It is also a challenge for credit unions – Franciszek Stefczyk would be surely wondering how to help these poor people. And the human ordinary activity of Credit Unions is just based on it which has also a charity character, although regulations concerning the activity of credit unions are very restrictive and those who are managing them must respect a code of rules.
The statements of international participants of the congress towards Polish Credit Unions were very favourable, they were saying that they had come to Poland to learn something, that our country is a leader in carrying out the cooperative activity.
While, in Poland of a new capitalist system, they whole economy was practically sold to rich foreign entrepreneurs and it led to a situation that there are, among the others, mines in foreign hands – we have coal but we must import it from abroad. It is similar with shipyards which were sold or closed down; as far as sugar factories are concerned – we had good Polish sugar which we used to export and now we must import it. It was caused by a global European policy which made Poland, a promising country, a poor country, based on foreign markets. If we had gone towards the cooperative activity at that time – because Poles could not afford a purchase of many enterprises and foreign capitalists were doing it, while being favoured by our government – if we had been creating various cooperative unions, that is big unions of ordinary people, who would unite together around important matters of rescuing something for the country, then many institutions would remain in our hands, we would live in our country and be working for ourselves.
Therefore, thanks to God that there are such organisations, like Credit Unions, where one can obtain material help, save on good conditions and multiply funds in an ethical way (for example, not through supporting the trade with weapon), and support good works from benefits. Thanks to it, we are not left to big banks or financiers who are unscrupulously governing the world and are making decisions which are not beneficial for us. The option on which Credit Unions are based, is an evangelical option, the option of St. Franciszek of Assisi – the world meeting of the representatives of Credit Unions in Gdansk started with a prayer to this saint. May this spirit of beloved God and the ministry to the man develop in our social life as beautifully as possible.
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