Bangladesh, Myanmar source of 21-century exodus: Cardinal Bo

By Matters India reporter

Dhaka, August 2, 2019: Two cardinals from Myanmar and the Philippines met refugee families, relief agency personnel and government officials of a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh during their weeklong visit to Bangladesh.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila, and Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, traveled to refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh on July 29, accompanied by Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

They were accompanied by Holy Cross Archbishop Moses Costa of Chittagong and Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi.

Cardinal Tagle is the president of Caritas Internationalis, a global confederation of Catholic relief and development agencies, which has helped more than half a million Rohingya refugees by providing shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, and living supplies.

Cardinal Bo is the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

Some 2,000 people and 40 priests joined the prelates at a Mass on July 31 at Holy Rosary Church, Tejgon, Dhaka. In his homily, Salesian Cardinal Bo said, “Bangladesh and Myanmar are the new areas of exodus of the 21st century. Our faith journey demands that we accompany our brothers and sisters who are on the move.”

The visiting cardinal was referring to more than 1 million Myanmar Rohingya people who had fled across the border to Bangladesh, and now living in refugee camps, many of which are located in a swampy sort of ‘buffer zone’ along the border between the two countries.

In 2017 the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in Myanmar and the Burmese government refused to use the term Rohingya, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship and numerous other rights since a controversial law was enacted in 1982.

The violence against Rohingya reached levels that led the United Nations to declare the crisis “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

“I come here as your brother, your neighbor from Myanmar,” said the cardinal who was heeding to the call of Pope Francis who visited both countries in 2017 and appealed to Churches to be agents of peace.

The cardinal empathized saying, “I feel a deep sense of fellowship with you. Not long ago my own country was a refugee producing country. Millions left in the turbulent 1990s and thousands still need to come back. Millions became the IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and still they need to return home. Thousands like the Bangladeshi workers are migrant workers in every part of Asia. They need to return home. As neighbors we not only share borders. We share our tragedies, our brokenness, our displacements. We grieve together but we also hope together for a world without war and displacement.”

“Jesus was a refugee and an internally displaced person,” the cardinal reminded the audience.

All through he [Jesus] found no stable home, crying “Foxes have their holes, the birds have their nests, but the son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,” both countries’ faith journey is so closely intertwined with the story of every refugee, every IDP and every migrant.

The cardinal concluded his homily saying, “Let the treasure of hope, the treasure of peace, the treasure of human fellowship be found in our compassion for the brothers and sisters in the modern Exodus.”

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