12/20/2010, 00.00
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Archbishop of Singapore visits Bhutanese refugees in Nepal

More than 50,000 are still stuck after 20 years on the border region between Bhutan and Nepal. The prelate’s visit provides an opportunity to show the closeness of the Church to Catholic relief organisations funded by Singapore Catholics.

Singapore (AsiaNews) – Mgr Chia Nicholas, archbishop of Singapore, ended a five-day visit to Bhutanese refuges in Nepal. His trip showed the missionary urge of the Church in the Asian city-state. During his trip, which ended yesterday, the prelate met thousands of homeless people housed in camps run by the Jesuit Refugees Service (JRS) and Caritas Nepal.

In recent years, the Singapore Church has played a considerable role in helping Bhutanese refugees by providing clean water, food, shelter and education. Thanks to donations, it was able to set up a kindergarten and provide schoolchildren with a uniform.

Between 1977 and 1991, some 80,000 Bhutanese of Nepali origins were expelled from their country during a nationalist campaign carried out by then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The goal was to set up a Buddhist-only nation state free from foreign influence.

Despite recent moves towards democracy, the Bhutanese government has refused to let the refugees come home, forcing the international community to resettle them in third countries.

This year, some 30,000 have started a new life in Australia, United Nations and Canada.

However, some 50,000 are still left in Nepal, languishing in camps without a chance to work or hopes for a better future.

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See also
Bhutanese PM in Nepal, deaf to appeal by 50,000 refugees
International community takes in 20,000 refugees from Bhutan
Nepal: Bhutanese Prime Minister refuses to meet with refugees from his country
Victory by the People's Democratic Party gives hope to refugees in Nepal
Bhutan ready to negotiate the repatriation of 50,000 refugees from Nepal


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