Bishop of Pyay: Rohingya do not want to return to Myanmar

The Muslims who fled to Bangladesh do not trust Myanmar authorities. Their repatriation does not seem imminent, yet it frightens other ethnic groups in the country. In refugee camps, the Rohingya demand justice for the genocide they endured. The Catholic Church is committed to peaceful reconciliation one year after violence started.

Pyay (AsiaNews) - Exactly one year after the latest episode of sectarian violence broke out, causing a humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, Rohingya refugees "still do not want to return to Myanmar," said Alexander Pyone Cho, bishop of Pyay, a diocese in the troubled state in western Myanmar, speaking to AsiaNews.

In the refugee camps of Bangladesh today, the Rohingya have marked the first year since their flight with demonstrations and protest banners, demanding justice for the genocide visited upon them.

In the coming days, the Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICoE) will start investigating alleged human rights violations in Myanmar.

"At present, the situation remains unchanged in Myanmar,” the prelate said. “The government is trying to bring the situation back to normal but Muslims who fled to Bangladesh do not trust the authorities and their repatriation does not seem imminent. This fuels opposition and fears among local Buddhists and ethnic Rakhine."

Since the start of the latest crisis in the state, Buddhists and Hindus have complained about the atrocities committed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

Despite reports by international organisations and the discovery of mass graves, Rohingya guerrillas reject charges of violence, calling on the Myanmar military and other ethnic groups "not to blame the victims".

For their part, the leaders of the country’s small Catholic community have been working with the leaders of other religious groups towards a peaceful end to the religious and ethnic strife that continues to bedevil the country.

In late May, Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, led a delegation of Religions for Peace (RfP) in Rakhine. The following week, he met with State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and Minister of Religious Affairs and Culture Thura U Aung Ko. The cardinal handed them a cash donation from the Holy See.

During his historic apostolic visit to Myanmar (27-30 November 2017), Pope Francis donated € 300,000 (US$ 350,000) to the Archbishop of Yangon towards the resolution of the crisis in Rakhine.

On the occasion of the last ad limina visit of the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), the pontiff told Card Bo that he intends to organise an international conference on the Rohingya.

"The Church cannot do much on the ground since it is the government that coordinates the response to the humanitarian emergency,” Mgr Pyone said. “But amid many difficulties, Caritas Myanmar is involved in social and economic development in two Muslim villages, two Rakhine villages and two Chin villages, with the aim of extending the initiative to other settlements."