Pope urges the international community to resolve the Rohingya crisis

Pope Francis and Abdul Hamid

Pope urges the international community to resolve the Rohingya crisis

By Andrea Tornielli from Dhaka (Bangladesh)

In his address to the authorities in Dhaka, Francis spoke of the displaced people in the Burmese region of Rakhine, “It is imperative that the international community take decisive measures to address this grave crisis”

“None of us can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in the refugee camps.” Having left Myanmar Pope Francis arrived in Bangladesh and returned to talk about the persecuted minority of Rohingya, without using the word with which this Muslim ethnicity refers to itself. He does so by intervening before the political authorities, in the Bangabhapan presidential palace in Dhaka, until 1911, the residence of the Viceroy of India.

Upon his arrival at the capital’s airport, the Pope was greeted by President Abdul Hamid and a group of dancers in traditional white and yellow dress, in honor of the Vatican flag. Many large signs welcoming the Third Pontiff having visited the country, camp in the streets. Challenging the city’s intense traffic, Francis first went to National Martyr’s Memorial, built in memory of the martyrs who gave their lives for the country’s liberation war in 1971. Here he signed the Book of Honor and, before writing a sentence recalling the visit, in the column where guests are required to define their role, Francis wrote, ”Roman Catholic Bishop”.

The Pope then moved to the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, the home – now a museum - of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first president of Bangladesh, who was killed here together with 31 members of his family on 15 August 1975. Finally, Francis arrived at the presidential palace, and after a courtesy visit to Abdul Hamid, he met the political and institutional authorities.

Before him, President Abdul Hamid takes the floor, “Our government has given refuge to one million Rohingya who have been forced to leave their ancient homeland in the state of Rakhine in Myanmar. Thousands of them, including women and children, were brutally killed and the women raped.” The President thanked the Pope for “the position he has taken in favor of the suffering Rohingya” and how his “your passionate voice against this brutality gives us hope for a solution to the crisis.” “Your closeness to them, your appeal to help them and grant them full rights tasks the international community to act promptly.”

Francis thanked Bangladesh for what it has done in the face of this humanitarian emergency, “ In recent months, the spirit of generosity and solidarity which is a distinguishing mark of Bangladeshi society has been seen most vividly in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State, providing them with temporary shelter and the basic necessities of life. This has been done at no little sacrifice. It has also been done before the eyes of the whole world.”

None of us - adds the Pope - can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in the refugee camps. It is imperative that the international community take decisive measures to address this grave crisis, not only by working to resolve the political issues that have led to the mass displacement of people, but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs.

In his speech, after having remembered the travels of his predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II, Bergoglio affirms that “Bangladesh is a nation that strives to join unity of language and culture with respect for the different traditions and communities which, like so many streams, draw from, and return to enrich, the great current of the political and social life of the country”. The Pope explains that “In today’s world, no single community, nation or state can survive and make progress in isolation. As members of the one human family, we need one another and are dependent on one another.” And he says that President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman “has understood and sought to incorporate this principle into the National Constitution. He imagined a modern, pluralistic and inclusive society in which every person and community could live in freedom, peace and security, respecting the inborn dignity and equality of rights of all”.

“The future of this young democracy,” Francis says - “and the health of its political life are essentially linked to fidelity to that founding vision. For only through sincere dialogue and respect for legitimate diversity can a people reconcile divisions, overcome unilateral perspectives, and recognize the validity of differing viewpoints. Because true dialogue looks to the future, it builds unity in the service of the common good and is concerned for the needs of all citizens, especially the poor, the underprivileged and those who have no voice.”

The Pope insists on the harmony that “ has traditionally existed between followers of the various religions”. In a world where “religion is often – scandalously – misused to foment division the Pontiff explains recalling the brutal attack of two years ago - such a witness to its reconciling and unifying power is all the more necessary. This was seen in a particularly eloquent way in the common reaction of indignation that followed last year’s brutal terrorist attack here in Dhaka, and in the clear message sent by the nation’s religious authorities that the most holy name of God can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against our fellow human beings”.

Finally, Francis recognizes “the freedom” which the Church enjoys in the country,” to practice her faith and to pursue her charitable works, which benefit the entire nation, not least by providing young people, who represent the future of society, with a quality education and a training in sound ethical and human values”. Remembering that in Catholic schools, mostly attended by non-Christians, efforts are being made “to promote a culture of encounter that will enable students to assume their responsibilities in the life of society”. “I am confident that, in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the national Constitution, the Catholic community will continue to enjoy the freedom to carry out these good works as an expression of its commitment to the common good.”

Thu, 11/30/2017 - 14:57
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