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Latin American Bishops Meet on Refugees

February 19, 1985

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) _ Fifteen Roman Catholic bishops from Latin America met Tuesday to study the plight of refugees forced from their homes by political violence in Central America.

Monsignor Arturo Rivera y Damas, archbishop of San Salvador and president of the Central American Episcopal Secretariat, said the Roman Catholic Church should ″reflect more on the theme of the refugees″ with a view to strengthening its work on their behalf.

″We also are seeking to outline a strategy that will call the attention of the international community so that the classification of refugees, displaced people or immigrants can be revised,″ Rivera y Damas said in a speech at the opening session of the four-day conference.

Rivera y Damas placed the number of refugees and immigrants in the region at 2.2 million and said they were the ″product of the insane violence unleashed here.″

Alex Dalpiaz, secretary of the Catholic Commission on Migrations, said countries are becoming less tolerant of the refugees as their numbers grow.

″Generally the attitude toward them is less receptive and in many countries there are dangerous outbreaks of xenophobia or hate of foreigners,″ Dalpiaz said.

He said the attitudes affected not only political refugees, but people who left their countries for economic reasons or to flee violence.

Honduras has been the Central American nation most affected by the flow of refugees from El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Attending the meeting, held at a Catholic retreat outside Tegucigalpa, are bishops from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador, along with representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the secretariat general of Caritas International, the Catholic Commission on Migrations and the Latin American Episcopal Secretariat.

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