11/28/2017, 10.30
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Rohingya and peripheries, the hot topics awaiting Pope Francis in Dhaka

by Anna Chiara Filice

Dhaka still devoid of signs of welcome for arrival of the pontiff. At the center of the visit: refugees, migrants and rejected people. In Cox's Bazaar camps, the Chittagong diocese thinks of the education of Rohingya children. The displaced risk being moved to Hill Tracts where no rights or development exist. From our envoy on the ground.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Rohingya and the peripheries: These are the issues on the agenda for Catholics in Dhaka, while the wait for Pope Francis’ arrival in two days. The issue of Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar has been reiterated by Card. Patrick D'Rozario, Archbishop of the capital. Yesterday, he took part in the presentation of the visit to journalists, at the archbishop's headquarters. He asked them all, around 60 present, "to collaborate for a successful visit".

According to the Cardinal, the focal point of the entire pastoral journey will be "dialogue: with religions, with cultures that make up Bangladesh, with the poor. The Church is poor and works for the poor. "

Meanwhile, ahead of the pontiff’s arrival, the issue of the Rohingya continues to be the most debated subject. We met Msgr. Moses M. Costa, archbishop of Chittagong, under whose jurisdiction Cox's Bazar falls, the area where 620,000 people are refugees in makeshift camps. "The Bishops' Conference - he says - has given the mandate to Caritas, which works with the consent of the government." He explains that the social arm of the Catholic Church "supplies food every day to 10,000 families. Food stuffs were our immediate response to the emergency. Winter also arrived and we are distributing warm clothes. But that's not enough. In addition to food, our mission is to take care of people, human beings. That is why we are thinking of a child education project in refugee camps. "

The bishop reports: "People are destroyed, angry, and there is physical and psychological discomfort. The danger is that the more people feel depressed on one hand, and frustration on the other, this can turn into aggressiveness. They are people who have lost everything and disease and exploitation are widespread. Maybe other groups do not care, but we care about these people."

He tells us the story of one little girl in the refugee camp: "She was little over one meter high, maybe about ten years old. She was alone, her family had been exterminated. And she did not speak, she had locked herself up in this mourning and in pain."

Another matter that worries him "is that no one knows how this can be solved. What's worse is that in the past these people have agreed to be relocated to other areas, to the detriment of those who already needed help. My fear is that if the government were to allow Rohingya to move to the Hill Tracts area, where 30 minority groups live, and occupy their land, we will face another disaster. There is already desperation there, there are no rights, no land ownership, lack of education and development programs. Pain will be added to pain. "

Another topic on the agenda is that of the peripheries. Francis was first was to reaffirm the will to bring Christ "to the periphery of the world". And that's exactly what Catholics now expect. Fr Bulbul Augustine Rebeiro, head of the papal visit media committee, states: "Pope Francis speaks of the peripheries, of small churches. We expect him to become one of us, showing solidarity to the people of this country that is so distant."

For Card. D'Rozario, "it is not so much to distinguish between peripheries and the universal Church. We are all part of the same body of the Church. Each organ contributes to the good functioning of the body. So the Church can be universal only by becoming local. Pope Francis will see the local Church, but at the same time he will speak to the universal Church. "

The Pope adds Fr. Rebeiro, "is one of the world's greatest leaders, and for this reason everyone is interested in knowing what he will say on three issues: Rohingya, migrants and persecuted or rejected people. And the theme of migrants perfectly suits that of the peripheries. Even here in Bangladesh we have many people migrating abroad in search of work. For the occasion, they will return to their country of origin. "

In the capital, everyday life continues as normal and there are still no signs as of yet of the Pope’s imminent arrival, such as the welcoming billboards. The reason, explains Fr. Rebeiro, is that the government must give its consent to the places where these could be displayed. "But they've already been printed," he assures. According to another Catholic, "the billboards have not yet been erected because the party in power is very self-congratulating. So the banners will only be placed in some specific areas of the city. "

Regarding security during the visit, Msgr. Gervas Rozario, president of Caritas Bangladesh, bishop of Rajshahi, and responsible for the system that will guarantee the Pope and pilgrim's safety, says: "Before the Rohingya were under the spotlight, the government's goal was to show the international community Bangladesh as a responsible and reliable country for commerce. Bangladesh is rapidly expanding and needs funding. It is also one of the most peaceful Muslim countries, which strongly believes in the value of harmony. The credibility of the authorities rests on the Pope's security. It is the government's great concern to ensure that everything goes well, to help attract the hoped for investors. "

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