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Cardinals of Yangon and Manila visit refugees in Bangladesh

Dignitaries spend two days deepening their knowledge of the humanitarian crisis on behalf of Caritas Internationalis

Cardinals of Yangon and Manila visit refugees in Bangladesh

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon talks to a Rohingya refugee family at Kutupalong refugee camp of Bangladesh during his first visit on July 29. (Photo courtesy of Caritas Bangladesh)

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila and Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon have joined Bangladeshi prelates in a two-day visit to Rohingya refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar district of southeastern Bangladesh.

Cardinal Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, the global confederation of 165 national Catholic relief and development agencies, and Cardinal Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC) visited the camps July 29.

The day before, the prelates also met with Muhammad Abul Kalam, head of Bangladesh’s Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission, the main state body overseeing about one million Rohingya refugees residing in about 30 refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.

Most Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh following two deadly military crackdowns in the Rakhine State of Myanmar in 2016 and 2017. 

Abul Kalam said he was delighted by the visit of two prominent Catholic Church leaders and he presented to them “an overview about the crisis.”

“I conveyed to them the gigantic challenges we are facing and told them we appreciated the various activities undertaken by Caritas for the refugees,” Kalam told ucanews.com.

“We have appealed to them to continue the Church’s support. I believe the cardinals now have a good idea of the various challenges the refugees are going through, especially the risks during monsoon season as well as health and environmental problems.”

On both days the visiting dignitaries were accompanied by Bangladeshi Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Holy Cross Archbishop Moses M. Costa of Chittagong and Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi.

This was Cardinal Tagle’s second visit to Rohingya refugee camps — his first was in December last year — and a first for Cardinal Bo.

The prelates visited and talked to several Rohingya refugee families at Camp 4 and Camp 17 in Kutupalong, the largest of the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, which shelters more than 400,000 Rohingya.

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They then met with Caritas staff and volunteers and glanced through Caritas activities in the camps, including model shelters and the distribution of LPG cylinders to refugees.

This visit was made exclusively on “humanitarian grounds” on behalf of Caritas Internationalis and the FABC and was not “diplomatic” in nature, ucanews.com was told by James Gomes, regional director of Caritas Chittagong, who coordinated the tour in the camps.

“Cardinal Tagle’s last visit was limited to Caritas activities in the camps. This time, he met with government officials and viewed the activities of other aid agencies as well,” Gomes told ucanews.com. “I believe he has gotten a broader view about the challenging situation in the camps.”

Cardinal Bo talked to Rohingya families in their “own language” and they were elated and encouraged, he said.

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