At Easter mass, Parisians pray for Notre-Dame’s swift restoration

A choir perform during a Mass in tribute to the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral at the Saint Eustache church in Paris on Easter Sunday, on April 21, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 21 April 2019
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At Easter mass, Parisians pray for Notre-Dame’s swift restoration

  • “We will rise up again and our cathedral will rise up again,” the archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, said at the service
PARIS: With no cathedral to go to, hundreds of Parisians gathered for Easter Sunday mass at the smaller Saint-Eustache catholic church on the city’s right bank, and prayed for the swift restoration of Notre-Dame after its devastating fire.
The archbishop of Paris, Michel Aupetit, began the service by drawing a parallel between the planned reconstruction of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, celebrated every year by Christians at Easter.
“We will rise up again and our cathedral will rise up again,” he told the congregation, which included the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the head of the Paris fire service, General Jean-Claude Gallet.
The mass had originally been scheduled to be held at Notre-Dame, whose spire was destroyed and its roof gutted in Monday’s blaze as rescuers put their lives at risk to salvage the rest of the centuries-old cathedral and its priceless artefacts.
Half way through the mass, Gallet received a minute’s applause from the congregation in tribute to the 400 firefighters who extinguished the blaze, and was then handed a bible that survived the fire.
“We wish to reunite with the faithful, to pray together, hoping that Notre-Dame of Paris is revived as quickly as possible,” said Annie le Bourvellec, a charity worker, as hundreds of worshippers queued outside Saint-Eustache, one of Paris’s biggest churches, ahead of the mass.
Kimon Yiasemiees, a construction litigation expert from Washington D.C., expressed a similar sentiment.
“It is a tragedy, but in any tragedy, you have to look for a hope of renewal,” he said. “And it just shows me that, not only the French people, but people around the world are really in tune to Notre-Dame and to Paris...”
President Emmanuel Macron pledged this week that France would rebuild the cathedral in five years and that the French people would pull together to repair their national symbol.
The destruction of one of the France’s best-loved and visited monuments prompted an outpouring of sorrow and a rush by rich families and corporations to pledge around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for its reconstruction.

($1 = 0.8891 euros)


UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

Updated 48 min 42 sec ago
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UN gives Myanmar aid cut warning over Rohingya camp closures

  • Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya
  • They have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts

YANGON: The UN has warned it will pare back aid to thousands of Rohingya Muslims left destitute as Myanmar’s government closes camps in Rakhine state, over fears its continued support “risks entrenching segregation.”
Aid agencies are facing an increasingly sharp dilemma in the region as they balance relief for desperate communities with leverage over the government.
The majority of Myanmar’s Rohingya were driven into Bangladesh by a 2017 army crackdown, but around 400,000 remain inside conflict-battered Rakhine.
Those include nearly 130,000 held since 2012 in squalid camps, currently supported by UN agencies and humanitarian groups.
As part of its strategy to address the crisis, Myanmar has closed several camps holding around 9,000 Rohingya.
But they have not been allowed to return to their former homes and remain dependent on handouts. Instead, they are being settled in new accommodation close to the former camps.
That has sparked fears aid agencies are effectively being used to prop-up a policy that fails to address the fundamental needs of the Rohingya, including housing, work, food and security.
The camp closure plan “risks entrenching segregation,” UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar Knut Ostby wrote to the government in a leaked letter, dated 6 June and seen by AFP.
The letter, also written on behalf of aid groups, warned support “beyond life-saving assistance” at the closed sites would in future be linked to “tangible” progress made on “the fundamental issue of freedom of movement.”
“Life-saving” support includes food, health and water, but site planning, shelter construction and education facilities could be phased out, aid agency sources told AFP.
The UN has faced criticism for a slow response to violence against the Rohingya, which escalated after 2012 riots between Muslim Rohingyas and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
A UN report released Monday admitted “systemic failures” in its handling of the build-up to the Rohingya crisis.
Limited access to Rakhine’s camps makes independent reporting on conditions difficult.
But AFP has reviewed recent interviews conducted in five camps by an NGO requesting anonymity to protect its work.
“If I build a house, it can be seized arbitrarily,” one Rohingya man said.
“I have no right to the land and I can also be arrested at any time.”
An aid worker called the remaining 23 sites in Rakhine little more than “concentration camps.”
On condition of anonymity, she spoke of the “complicity” humanitarian staff feel for perpetuating the segregation.
Amnesty International has described Rakhine as an “apartheid state.”
All aid must be “heavily conditioned,” researcher Laura Haigh said, warning donors that building infrastructure could make them complicit in crimes against humanity.
The government defended the camp closures, telling AFP it would continue working with the UN and NGOs on the issue.
Any former camp resident holding a National Verification Card (NVC) will be able to “move freely within their township” and access “education, health facilities and livelihood activities,” the social welfare ministry said.
Most Rohingya refuse to apply for the card believing they should already be treated as full citizens.
Those interviewed said the few to have caved had no more rights than anyone else.
They were also forced to designate themselves as “Bengali,” a term implying they are from Bangladesh.
“They are just trying to dominate us and make us illegal through different ways,” one Rohingya man said.