Pope Francis has praised Bangladesh’s ongoing efforts to help the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have entered the country from neighbouring Myanmar in recent months.
“In recent months, the spirit of generosity and solidarity which is a distinguishing mark of Bangladeshi society has been seen most vividly in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State, providing them with temporary shelter and the basic necessities of life,” the Pope said at the beginning of his visit to Bangladesh. “This has been done at no little sacrifice. It has also been done before the eyes of the whole world.”
The government of Bangladesh, which already hosted some 400,00 Rohingya refugees, has accepted nearly 625,000 more since August, as the Rohingya have fled their home of Rakhine state in Myanmar.
Bangladesh has signed an agreement with Myanmar that would allow the Rohingya to repatriate over time, while at the same time expanding refugee camps and constructing tens of thousands of shelters for them in Bangladesh until they are able to return.
In addition, the government of Bangladesh is providing medical help, including vaccinations for children, and is registering the refugees so they can receive government assistance.
The Pope urged other nations to do more to help the Rohingya in Bangladesh.
“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,” the Pope said, “but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs.”
The Pope also praised Bangladesh’s tradition of tolerance.
“Bangladesh is known for the harmony that has traditionally existed between followers of the various religions,” he said.
In Myanmar, the Pope had avoided using the word Rohingya during his speeches in Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw.