Standing in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said, “This camp is a cry to the whole world for a better politics based on compassion and solidarity.”
The Caritas Internationalis president visited Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh 3-4 December. He saw how Caritas is helping provide vital shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, living supplies and protection assistance to people fleeing brutal repression in Myanmar. Watch Cardinal Tagle’s message from the camp:
Since August 2017, widespread violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has caused 700,000 Rohingya people to flee to Bangladesh, bringing the total Rohingya population there to nearly one million.
Cardinal Tagle spoke to several families at Kutupalong refugee camp, the largest of the 30 refugee shelters in Cox’s Bazar. He visited aid distribution points, child-friendly spaces and model houses set up by Caritas.
“It’s one thing to see reports and read articles, but another to come here and see and touch,” said the cardinal.
“Part of me is sad that humanity keeps allowing suffering like this. When will we learn our lessons and be able to stop a crisis of this magnitude happening again? How as an international community and a human family can we get back to the basics of dignity, care, and compassion,” he said.
However, Cardinal Tagle also said his visit had given him fresh hope. Caritas Bangladesh has helped nearly 500,000 Rohingya refugees since the crisis began. Examples of this aid include:
- 85,000 families given food,
- 5 million grasses, 8000 bamboo grafts, and 90,000 samplings planted,
- 8,500 shelter up-graded kits distributed,
- 261 latrines, 27 deep tube wells, and 170 bathing areas built,
- Through the Barefoot Counsellor project, community discussions on protection, violence, trafficking and gender‑based violence,
- Distributed stoves and refilled liquid petroleum gas for 15,000 households
“What I see here right now is human suffering but I see also the hope that the Caritas confederation brings to people,” he said. “They are doing all they can with sparse resources to reaffirm the dignity of others. Caritas Bangladesh, a small Caritas within our family, is doing excellent work but it is only possible with the collaboration of many other Caritas organizations”
The cardinal was accompanied by Archbishop Moses Costa of Chattogram and Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi and President of Caritas Bangladesh. The camps are in Archbishop Costa’s diocese.
“The situation of refugees from Myanmar was heartbreaking for me when I came first, but I’m seeing things improve,” said the archbishop. “We wish for a permanent solution for these people who are stateless and helpless. It is our responsibility to be with them. We want them to have a happy life.”
Cardinal Tagle has been leading the global Share the Journey campaign for refugees and migrants. “The purpose of the Share the Journey is simple – develop a culture of personal encounter with the many forced migrants, refugees, displaced people in the world, including the victims of human trafficking, exploitation and new form of slavery,” he said.
“That’s why I’m here in Bangladesh – to listen to people forced from their home. If we do that we might realise that their stories are our stories, their dreams are our dreams, their suffering is our suffering. We share a common path.”
The trip came one year after Pope Francis visited Bangladesh and Myanmar with a message of dialogue and peace.
“Here I am this first week of Advent with a people waiting for a future,” said Cardinal Tagle. “For us ,Advent is waiting not for something but for someone. Jesus, who was born poor, who became a refugee but who never stops loving. I hope this message coming from this camp will encourage all of us never to get tired of loving.”