MANDALAY (UCAN): Charles Cardinal Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asians Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), called on Asian leaders to address the endemic “racism, nativism and hateful rhetoric” faced by undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in a statement on June 20, World Refugee Day.
He said it is time to ask leaders of all nations to respect the rights of all people.
“Prioritise the long-acknowledged principles of international law proper to civilised countries regarding the protection of forcibly displaced persons,” the cardinal said, adding, “If people continue to be forced from their homes, we will remain a world in crisis.”
Cardinal Bo pointed to the risks refugees face in the midst of the Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic.
“They are often on the run, crowded together and with inadequate health care,” he said, adding “humanity is divided, the pandemic crisis cannot be overcome. When no one is left out, it is possible to heal a planet. For everybody’s sake let us care for refugees.”
The 72-year-old cardinal has raised his concerns that some Asian countries have used Covid-19 as an excuse to deny assistance to migrant populations and to round up and detain migrant men, women and children.
“It is important to include the needs of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in all policies of response to Covid-19, including relief,” he noted.
Cardinal Bo called for concrete steps toward peace regarding responses to the pandemic.
“In order to end the health crisis, relieve the hunger and poverty induced by the pandemic, and to prevent the uprooting of people as refugees, the real causes of conflict must be addressed, military offensives halted, and displaced people allowed to return to their villages,” the cardinal said.
He urged the world “to give priority to attending to the most vulnerable people such as the refugees” as we face a multiple, global crisis.
The outspoken Cardinal Bo has joined United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres, and Pope Francis in calling a global ceasefire in the face of the unprecedented and growing worldwide threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Global displacement reached a staggering 79.5 million people last year—almost double the number of people in crisis registered a decade ago—due to war, violence, persecution and other emergencies, according to the UNHRC.