05/23/2015, 00.00
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Migrant crisis: Indonesian religious leaders call on government to sign the Geneva Convention

In a joint statement, Christian, Muslim and Buddhist leaders refer to the tragedy of the Rohingya and Bangladesh migrants as a humanitarian issue, not a religious problem, one that touches the whole nation. Muslim leader says madrassas should welcome Rohingya children.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/EDA) – With several Southeast Asian nations touched by the migrant crisis, Indonesian religious leaders urged Indonesian authorities to ratify the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

In a joint statement, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist religious leaders addressed the issue involving the Rohingya – a Muslim minority persecuted and deprived of the right of citizenship in Myanmar – and migrant workers from Bangladesh.

The crisis, they warn, is primarily "a humanitarian issue, which involves the whole Indonesian nation" and must be fully addressed.

In the past ten days, more than 3,000 people, mostly from Myanmar and Bangladesh, have been rescued in the Andaman Sea and off the coast of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Thailand’s crackdown on human trafficking after the discovery of a mass grave with dozens of bodies of Rohingya near its border with Malaysia has compounded the crisis.

The refusal of entry by Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur simply made matters worse.

ASEAN and other parties touched by human trafficking are set to meet in Bangkok on 29 May to address the issue.  

In Southeast Asia, only Cambodia and the Philippines have signed the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons. Indonesia has no law to deal with the matter, nor facilities capable of accommodating migrants.

Speaking on the matter, Indonesian religious leaders noted that the issue is not religious in nature but requires government action.

For Sugiyanto, from the Buddhist Association of Indonesia (Walubi), the case "must be addressed by all the parties involved.”

Imanulhap Maman, a leader with the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said that madrassas (Qur‘anic schools) should "welcome Rohingya children".

Stephen Siahaan, a Christian, noted that "our first task is to save people whose life is in danger."

Pope Francis has also spoken about the migrants. Last Tuesday, at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the pontiff mentioned the tragedy of the Rohingya, as well as that of the Christians and Yazidis of Iraq and Syria, forced to flee their homes because of violence and strife.

For Card Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, the only way to resolve the crisis is by investing in poor countries and ensuring their proper development.

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