Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Pope calls on Catholics worldwide to pray for refugees and persecuted Christians. In his prayer intentions for August, Benedict XVI invites the faithful to invoke the Lord "so that public opinion may be more aware of the problem of millions of displaced persons and refugees and find solutions to their often tragic situation."
Along with concern for the refugees, the Pope also recalled "those Christians who are discriminated against and persecuted in many countries because of the name of Christ" and invites us to pray so that "human rights, equality and religious freedom are recognized so that they can live and profess their faith freely.” According to recent statistics, about 42 million refugees are living around the world. Most of them come from so-called developing countries. 2009 saw 700 thousand cases less than in 2008, but also the emergence of new emergencies.
Asia significantly reflects the extension of the phenomenon. Almost every country in the continent has to deal with displaced persons and so-called internally displaced persons (IDPs). There are persistent situations such as those of the Philippines, where the ten-year war in Mindanao with the Muslim separatists MILF has caused more than 200 thousand refugees. Added to these are new areas such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka. At the end of the conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the military, there were 300 thousand IDPs. In May, Pakistan registered a mass exodus, with 834 thousand civilians abandoning their homes in the Swat valley to escape the Taliban.
War is the main cause of the 42 million refugees worldwide. And very often conflicts and violence are rooted in hatred against religion. Even in this tragic combination Asia offers dramatic examples. The end of August marks the one year anniversary since the anti-Christian pogrom of Orissa, when rampaging Hindu fundamentalists caused thousands of refugees and hundreds of deaths. In the Pakistanis districts of North-West Frontier Provincethe violence of the Taliban and imposition of Sharia have forced the non-Muslim minorities to flee.Asia also registers numerous cases of discrimination on the basis of religion. Currently, out of over 52 Asian countries, at least 32 to some degree limit the mission of Christians: Islamic nations (from the Middle East to Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia) make it difficult for those who want to convert; India and Sri Lanka are increasingly pushing for anti-conversion laws; the Central Asian countries - excluding to some extent Kazakhstan - restrict religious freedom, the communist countries (China, Laos, Vietnam, North Korea) stifle or even persecute the Church. Often religious discrimination does not result in open conflict, but remains a latent phenomenon that permeates society and only emerges from time to time in open cruelty. One of the most recent cases is that of Vietnam where in recent days priests and faithful of the diocese of Vinh are suffering violence and arrests.