Cardinal Charles Bo says a failure to extend a ceasefire to all parts of Myanmar affects peace across Asia. (Photo: AFP)
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asians Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), has called on Asian leaders to address the endemic “racism, nativism and hateful rhetoric” faced by undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
He said it is time to ask leaders of all nations to respect the rights of all people.
“Prioritize the long-acknowledged principles of international law proper to civilized countries regarding the protection of forcibly displaced persons,” the cardinal said in a statement on World Refugee Day on June 20.
“If people continue to be forced from their homes, we will remain a world in crisis.”
Cardinal Bo pointed to the risks refugees face in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“They are often on the run, crowded together and with inadequate health care,” he said, adding “humanity is divided, the pandemic crisis cannot be overcome. When no one is left out, it is possible to heal a planet. For everybody’s sake let us care for refugees.”
The 72-year-old cardinal has raised his concerns that some Asian countries have used Covid-19 as an excuse for denying assistance to migrant populations and for rounding up and detaining migrant men, women and children.
“It is important to include the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in all policies of response to Covid-19, including relief,” he noted.
He called for concrete steps toward peace regarding responses to the pandemic.
“In order to end the health crisis, relieve the hunger and poverty induced by the pandemic, and to prevent the uprooting of people as refugees, the real causes of conflict must be addressed, military offensives halted, and displaced people allowed to return to their villages,” he said.
He urged the world “to give priority to attending to the most vulnerable people such as the refugees” as we face a multiple, global crisis.
‘Conflict leads to victory for no one’
Cardinal Bo also lamented the thousands of IDPs in Myanmar, which has been bedeviled with civil war for more than six decades.
In Myanmar, the world’s fifth major producer of refugees, a partial ceasefire was declared, he said.
“But the difference between a comprehensive and a partial ceasefire is everything. War is still displacing tens of thousands of people who are now starving in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states,” he added.
“The failure to extend the ceasefire to all parts of Myanmar affects peace across Asia. Conflict leads to victory for no one.”
The outspoken cardinal has joined the calls of the United Nations secretary-general and Pope Francis for a global ceasefire in the face of the unprecedented and growing worldwide threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 350,000 displaced persons are in camps in Kachin, Shan, Rakhine, Chin and Karen states across the country. Around 120,000 refugees have remained in the camps along the Thai border as a result of fighting between Myanmar's military and Karen rebels since the 1980s.
Global displacement reached a staggering 79.5 million people last year — almost double the number of people in crisis registered a decade ago — due to war, violence, persecution and other emergencies, according to UN refugee agency UNHRC.
Highlighting that this number now represents one in every 97 people on the planet, the agency’s latest Global Trends report shows that 8.7 million people were newly displaced in 2019 alone, with developing countries the worst hit.