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Asian bishops make refugee crisis a priority

DHAKA (UCAN): An international seminar held in Bangladesh, organised by the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), focused on migrants, refugees, displaced persons, human trafficking and renewable energy options in Asia.
 
The February 11 to 17 conference drew about 50 participants including Patrick Cardinal D’Rozario of Dhaka, nine archbishops and bishops, 14 priests, nuns and laypeople from 11 Asian countries.
 
Cox’s Bazar is now home to more than one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, and participants visited the Kutupalong refugee camp in six teams and submitted team reports.
 
Representatives of the 11 participating countries presented reports on the Catholic Church’s responses and programmes for migrants, refugees, human trafficking and human rights. The event also aimed to formulate a common framework for Asian Churches to respond to these issues as well as renewable energy options, which will be presented at an FABC meeting in 2020.
 
Auxiliary Bishop Allwyn D’Silva of Bombay, executive secretary of the FABC’s office of human development, said the event served two purposes.
 
“Firstly, we have a refugee crisis in the world that the Church is concerned about. Secondly, Pope Francis has made refugees and migrants one of his top priorities. We feel the Asian bishops can take this up as a top priority too,” the bishop said. 
 
“We want the Church to become aware and to reach out to these people—migrants and refugees. It is more about awareness of the Church rather than making governments aware. But the pope has also made governments aware that they have to take care of migrants.”
 
The bishop said that while the FABC cannot force anyone to do anything, it expects the participants to practice what they have learned.
 
“When I go back my diocese and when others go back to their dioceses, they must think about it and they need to put into practice what they have learned from here—what we can do in our own dioceses,” Bishop D’Silva added.
 
Pope Francis’s groundbreaking encyclical, Laudato Si’, is an example of the Church’s advocacy for people in distress, he said.
 
Responding to migrants, refugees and human trafficking is a call of the time, said Italian Father Fabio Baggio, undersecretary of the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican’s Integral Human Development Department, a keynote speaker at the conference.
 
 “If we look at the global scenario of migrants and refugees, we are talking about more than 250 million migrants, more than 25 million refugees and 40-45 million internally displaced people. Unfortunately, many of them are on the Asian continent, posing more challenges as it is a continent with enormous diversities of cultures, languages and differences in environments from Japan to the Middle East,” Father Baggio said.
 
The Vatican official regretted that legislation in various Asian countries is not tied and ratified in line with many international conventions, including United Nations conventions that recognise the rights and dignity of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers.
 
The Church in Asia has been very active in responding to people in crisis but pastoral efforts require coordination, he said.
 
“We are working with pastoral coordinators who have strong networks to support refugees, asylum seekers, displaced people and victims of human trafficking with lots of good actions and best practices in different environments. But many times these are disconnected and the goal is to connect them and learn from each other and see what can be done as a joint venture,” Father Baggio added.
 
The FABC’s office of human development, in collaboration with the Bangladeshi bishops’ Commission for Justice and Peace and Asia-Pacific Justice and Peace Workers Network, organised the conference funded by Misereor, the German bishops’ organisation for development cooperation.

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