I have been working in the field of international development for nearly 21 years and have worked at Caritas Bangladesh for the past 12 years, where I work most directly and intensively with refugees.

I was watching television one fateful day in August 2017 when the news featured the Rohingya refugees seeking asylum in large numbers. They witnessed violence and experienced massive hardships, and were driven to flee their homes out of fear for their lives. My heart went out to them as I watched the scenes unfold in front of me.

I kept hearing the message “when I was a foreigner you did not give me a place” and knew I could not sit at home doing nothing. I was drawn by an unknown force to do something for these refugees. I believe it was the Holy Spirit which inspired me.

I believe it is my duty as a human being to care for others who are in need, which is why it is so important to help the refugees through the tough times.  When I work with them, I try to convey the message of hope, and help them understand that they are loved.

Being a refugee is one of the hardest things any human being can face. They are forced to leave their homes, their countries, and many times, their loved ones and families, for the purpose of finding safety and security in another country.

James speaking to two Rohingya refugees outside their families makeshift home in the TV Tower refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Caritas

In 2017, I met the Rohingya people and listened to their stories as they crossed the river into Bangladesh. One of the many stories I remembered was this newly married woman, who lost her husband and sisters in Myanmar. She was fleeing to Bangladesh when she saw a baby boy crying beside his mother’s dead body. She took the child with her without a second thought.

I am most touched by how accepting the local people of Cox’s Bazar are towards the Rohingya people. The area is poverty-stricken and most of the people are living hand to mouth. Yet the locals accepted the refugees, shared their food and gave them a place to stay. This has changed my outlook and continues to inspire me.

My dream is for these people to one day return to their own country with dignity and identity. I dream that there will no longer be any religious discrimination or discrimination between rich and poor – where each person will be respected, regardless of whether he is a businessman or fisherman, and live in a family of love.

James Gomes
Regional Director of Caritas Chattogram in Bangladesh

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