DHAKA – In his first public speech in Bangladesh delivered on Thursday, Pope Francis considered that no one could ignore the gravity of the Muslim minority Rohingyas’ situation and urged the international community to take decisive measures to address this grave crisis.
Once again, the Pope avoided mentioning the word “Rohingya” explicitly in the speech delivered at the presidential palace in the Bangladeshi capital, referring to them as “a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State.”
“It is imperative that the international community take decisive measures to address this grave crisis, not only by working to resolve the political issues that have led to the mass displacement of people, but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs,” the Pope said.
The Pontiff, who minutes earlier had met privately with Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid, praised the spirit of generosity and solidarity which marked the country’s society.
This spirit, he added, had been seen most vividly in the Bangladeshi society’s humanitarian outreach to the refugees from Rakhine State, providing them with temporary shelter and the basic necessities of life, at no little sacrifice.
“None of us can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in the refugee camps,” said Pope Francis.
The Pope highlighted the importance of meetings with leaders from various religions which are to take place during the visit, and added that the country was known for the harmony that has traditionally existed between followers of various religions.
“This atmosphere of mutual respect, and a growing climate of interreligious dialogue, enables believers to express freely their deepest convictions about the meaning and purpose of life. In a world where religion is often – scandalously – misused to foment division, such a witness to its reconciling and unifying power is all the more necessary,” he added.
The Pope recalled the common reaction of indignation that followed 2016’s terrorist attack in Dhaka, and the clear message sent by the nation’s religious authorities that the name of God can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against fellow humans.
Pope Francis also mentioned the role played by the Catholics in Bangladesh, who despite being a relatively small community collaborate in the development of the country, particularly through their schools, clinics and dispensaries.
“I am confident that, in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the national Constitution, the Catholic community will continue to enjoy the freedom to carry out these good works as an expression of its commitment to the common good,” he added.