09/15/2017, 17.33
PAKISTAN – MYANMAR
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Lahore Catholic NGO to help Rohingya in trouble

by Kamran Chaudhry

The ten-day mission involves the distribution of various items to a hundred families, moved by the need to help "Muslim brothers". Refugees “are ordinary, peace-loving people caught between rival groups."

Lahore (AsiaNews) – A lay Catholic of Lahore is leaving for Thailand next week to help Rohingya Muslims fleeing Buddhist-majority Myanmar amid a security crackdown.

During his ten-day mission, Samuel Pyara, president of Bright Future Society (BFS), plans to help a hundred families with medicine, food items and clothes.

Pyara will visit refugee camps along the border between Mae Sot, in Thailand’s Tak province, and Myawaddy, in Myanmar’s Kayin State. In 2015, he handed out relief items in the same area to some fifty displaced families.

"There are many challenges,” he told AsiaNews. “These people are usually living in the jungle, starving with their children. Many of them become victim of snake bites. Especially the children looked pale and terrified. The terrain is very rough. It is a painful experience.”

"We are very much concerned about the plight of our Muslim siblings who are in dire need of support. Several Christian-led organisations and minority wings of political parties held protests and press conferences against the ongoing tyranny [in Myanmar]. I am doing this for humanity."

Like most Pakistanis, Pyara has no idea about armed militant groups in the Rohingya community like the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which attacked some 30 police and military outposts on 25 August in Rakhine State.

The counteroffensive by Myanmar security forces caused the Rohingya exodus. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, some 370,000 have crossed the border into Bangladesh.

Some 30,000 people from other Rakhine ethnic groups have also been displaced. The latter accuse the Muslims of atrocities against them.

Pyara spoke about the situation of other minorities in Myanmar who have long been in conflict with the military.

"Based on my conversation with displaced families, I believe that they are ordinary, peace-loving people caught between rival groups. Christians in Kachin State also need international action but we are helpless, as journalists and aid workers are being denied entrance in Myanmar."

In his views, Bangladesh holds the key to solving Rohingya crisis. "Rohingya are ethnic Bengali-speaking Muslims and must be accepted by Bangladesh. This is the only solution of their plight," he said.

Founded in 1996, BFS works for disaster victims, human rights, elderly, disabled children, poor students and sets up clean water facilities.

Last year it conferred the Good Samaritan award to Abdul Sattar Edhi, who is considered the 'Mother Teresa of Pakistan’, a few months before his death.

On 20 September before his departure, Pyara plans to give the same award to colleagues of Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Ruth Pfau, who started Leprosy treatment in Pakistan, and died last month.

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