Pope Francis explains why he omitted Rohingya from Myanmar speech

Pope Francis wraps up Asia tour after meeting Rohingya

The country does not recognise the stateless Rohingya as an ethnic group with its own identity and considers them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Recently, Bangladesh had sent a notice along with Saudi Arabia to the UNHRC in this regard, Dhaka Tribune has reported. But he did not specifically mention the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Rakhine state.

"The presence of God today is also called Rohingya", he said after meeting refugees brought to the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka from Cox's Bazaar, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have settled after fleeing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state. The Myanmar military, claiming it is cracking down on militants, has been accused of a massive persecution of the Rohingya to the point that some describe it as "ethnic cleansing".

"When a group of people, religion or a society make a "little world", they lose the best that they have and plunge into a self-righteous mentality of "I am good, and you are bad", Francis said at the Notre Dame College, founded by Catholic priests. The usually forthright pontiff walked a diplomatic tightrope during his four days in Myanmar - the first papal visit to the country - avoiding any direct reference to the Rohingya in public while appealing to Buddhist leaders to overcome "prejudice and hatred".

"For me, the most important thing is that message gets through, to try to say things one step at a time and listen to the responses", he said.

Human rights groups have criticised Burma's de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize victor who was under house arrest for a total of 15 years, for not taking a stand against the generals.

As the Pope said, he didn't have the pleasure of slamming the door in their face publicly with a denunciation but had the satisfaction of dialogue, which was in a way more effective. "I'm a sinner", he said.

Asked if he used the word Rohingya during the private meeting with the military chiefs, the pope said: "I used words in order to arrive at the message and when I saw that the message had arrived, I dared to say everything that I wanted say".

He added: "They wept too".

Later in a speech to an audience of young students belonging to Catholics, Muslims and other religions, the pope spoke about welcoming and accepting those who "act and think differently than ourselves", according to Reuters.

"We should be recognised as bona-fide citizens of Myanmar, we should be assured life-long security, we should be allowed to pursue higher education, only then we can go back", said the woman's husband. Francis waited until he arrived in neighbouring Bangladesh to demand the global community intervene to resolve the crisis and help Bangladesh cope with the influx of more than 620,000 refugees fleeing a military crackdown in Rakhine state.



Other news