Monday, 11 December, 2017

Pope Francis refers to 'Rohingya' after meeting refugees in Bangladesh

Pope Francis stands with new priests after their ordination in Dhaka Pope Francis stands with new priests after their ordination in Dhaka
Sammy Stanley | 03 December, 2017, 01:36

"Today the presence of God is also called Rohingya", the pope said on the sidelines of a gathering with the leaders of different faiths in Dhaka.

"It is imperative that the worldwide community take decisive measures to address this grave crisis, not only by working to resolve the political issues that have led to the mass displacement of people, but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs".

The campaign has included the burning of Rohingya villages and fleeing Rohingya have described arson, rape and shootings by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs that left them no option but to make the risky and sometimes deadly journey through jungles and by sea to Bangladesh.

Pope Francis, visiting both Myanmar and Bangladesh this week, has called for decisive measures to resolve the political reasons that caused Rohingya to flee from Myanmar and urged help for Bangladesh to deal with and influx of some 625,000 refugees since late August.

The pontiff had previously been criticised for failing to mention the Rohingya directly while in Burma.

Francis even went so far as to offer a prayer for the people living in the Rakhine state, where the persecuted Rohingya are based.

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

"You can criticize what's said, what's not said, but the pope is not going to lose moral authority on this question here", Burke told reporters on Wednesday.

On the last day of his three-day visit to Bangladesh, which came after meetings in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, the Pope went to a home in Dhaka founded by Mother Teresa for orphans, unwed mothers and destitute elderly.

"Our people welcomed them with open arms, sharing food, shelter and other basic needs", he said. He called for a "safe, sustainable and dignified return" of the refugees to their homes. "But the fact that hundreds of thousands of Catholics turned out to welcome the pope showed the world they have freedom in the Buddhist-dominated country of which they are a part", the Buddhist monk said.

Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw, one of the senior Buddhist figures who met Francis on Tuesday, said the papal visit was a major force for religious harmony between Buddhists and Christians in Myanmar. I want him to recognize us as Rohingya.

A 27-year-old Rohingya Muslim woman refugee from Myanmar will meet Pope Francis on Friday in the hope he can help her find justice for the abuse she says she suffered at the hands of Myanmar soldiers, including rape.

Francis' first events Thursday in Muslim-majority Bangladesh were pure protocol: He visited the national martyrs' memorial and signed a visitors' book at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum, located at the site where Bangladesh's independence leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and 31 members of his family were killed in a 1975 military coup.

Pope Francis writes in a book at the presidential palace in Dhaka, Bangladesh November 30, 2017.

Information for this article was contributed by Julhas Alam and Nick Perry of The Associated Press.


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