Pope in Bangladesh with message of reconciliation, peace

Diplomatic Correspondent
Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Photo: Internet


Meeting with Rohingyas planned


Green, red and yellow are national colors of Bangladesh and Vatican. The combination of these colors symbolizes the unity and lasting friendship between Bangladesh and Vatican, remembering the fact that Vatican was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh’s importance in 1971.


Pope Francis arrived in Dhaka on a three-day state visit on November 30 carrying a message of ‘harmony, peace, reconciliation and forgiveness.


A papal visit is always historic for any nation, and this one at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Catholic Archbishop of Dhaka Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, was officially announced in Dhaka and the Vatican simultaneously with the same sense of occasion on August 28.


A planned meeting with a small group of Rohingyas is expected to be a high point during the Pope’s Dhaka visit.


“As I prepare to visit Bangladesh, I wish to send a message of greeting and friendship to entire population. I look forward to the moment in which we shall be together,” he said in a message before leaving Rome for Myanmar.


Pope, who reached Yangon on Monday afternoon prior visiting Bangladesh.


Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario on Monday briefed the media about the preparation of Pope’s visit to Ramna Cathedral and said the theme of the visit is “peace and harmony.”


The organizers in Dhaka took preparations to bring a small group of Rohingyas to Dhaka with approval of the government.


After a formal ceremony with highest honour, Pope visited the National Martyr’s Memorial at Savar, paid homage to the Father of the Nation at Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and signed the visitors’ book on the same day.


He is scheduled to meet President Abdul Hamid at Bangabhaban at about 5:30pm on Thursday and will also meet government and civil authorities and the Diplomatic Corps in the Presidential Palace.


Pope will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at 3:20pm on Friday and will visit the Cathedral at 4pm.


He will hold meeting with the Bishops of Bangladesh in the Home for retired priests. On Friday, he would join a prayer service at Suhrawardy Udyan.


On Saturday, Pope will have a private visit to Tejgaon Mother Theresa House and will meet with priests, religious and consecrated men and women in the Holy Rosary Church.


He will also visit to the Parish Cemetery and to the ancient Holy Rosary Church and will meet the youth in Notre Dame College.


Pope will leave for Rome at 5:05pm on Saturday after an official farewell in Dhaka International Airport.


“My visit is to confirm the Catholic community in Bangladesh in its faith and witness to the Gospel that recognizes the dignity of every man and woman and calls us to open our hearts to others, especially to the poor and needy,” Pope said in his message.


“We live in times in which believers and men of goodwill in all places are called to promote reciprocal understanding and respect, and to sustain each other as members of one human family,” the message reads.


He said he knows there are many people in Bangladesh who are working hard to prepare for his visit and he thanked them.


“I ask each of you for prayers so that my days with you may be a source of hope and encouragement for all. Upon you and your families I invoke the divine blessings of joy and peace! See you before long!,” the message reads.


Many of the refugees who have been flooding into Bangladesh to escape the Myanmar military say they’re hopeful that a visit to the region by Pope Francis will help bring peace, according to AP.


While the international community has condemned Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims as “ethnic cleansing,” the Catholic church has resisted the term and defended Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi as the only hope for democracy.


At the crowded Kutupalong refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, Mohammad Rafiq said he was very happy when he heard about the visit by Francis.


The 20-year-old fled Myanmar last month.


“Our rights, our minority community and our citizenship have been snatched by the Myanmar government,” Rafiq said. “We are hoping that with his talks and his efforts, we will get all of that back.”


Mohammad Nadir Hossain, 25, said the pope will get to see the sad situation that refugees face.


“If he wants, he can calm the Myanmar government down and bring peace by talking to us,” Hossain said. “We are suffering a lot right now. We are very worried. So, we are very grateful that he is coming.”


Rohingya in recent months have been subject to what the United Nations describes as a campaign of “textbook ethnic cleansing” by the military in poverty-wracked Rakhine state.


Since violence erupted in late August, more than 624,000 Rohingya men, women, and children have crossed over into Bangladesh from Myanmar, carrying with them tales of persecution, rape, and murder by the Myanmar military and Buddhist vigilantes.


Whatever term Francis uses, refugees like Hamida Begum, 35, believe the pope is visiting Myanmar to help them. She made the treacherous trip to Bangladesh three months ago.


“He can help send us back to Myanmar legally,” she said. “Or he can take us somewhere else from here. Perhaps to some other foreign country. Whatever he wants, he can do.”


Senu Ara, 35, who left Myanmar in September, also welcomes the pope’s visit.


“He might help us get the peace that we are desperately searching for,” she said. “Even if we stay here he will make our situation better. If he decides to send us back, he will do so in a peaceful way.”

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