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Pope Francis Avoids Mention of Rohingya in Myanmar Speech
International

Pope Francis Avoids Mention of Rohingya in Myanmar Speech

Pope Francis has avoided referring to Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority by name in a major speech after meeting the country’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The leader of the world’s Roman Catholics urged reconciliation and “respect for each ethnic group and identity,” but did not specifically mention the Rohingya and their plight, CNN reported.

Standing alongside Suu Kyi, Francis spoke mostly in general terms. The highly-anticipated remarks will likely please his hosts but may draw condemnation from human rights activists, who blame the Myanmar army for driving out hundreds of thousands of Rohingya from the country.

Francis did not specifically address allegations of ethnic cleansing but said religion has an important role to play in solving the crisis.

“The arduous process of peace-building and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights,” he said, according to a translation provided by the Vatican.

Suu Kyi also spoke mostly in generalities, though she mentioned the location of the crisis by name.

“As we address long standing issues, social, economic and political, that have eroded trust and understanding, harmony and cooperation, between different communities in Rakhine, the support of our people and of good friends who only wish to see us succeed in our endeavors has been invaluable,” she said.

Suu Kyi and Francis met briefly before the speeches.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled across the border to neighboring Bangladesh since a recent spate of violence began in August. Refugees say the Myanmar’s military has murdered children, raped women and razed villages.

On Monday, Myanmar’s powerful army chief told Pope Francis there is “no religious discrimination” in the country during talks at the start of the pontiff’s delicate visit to the majority-Buddhist nation that has been accused of “ethnic cleansing” against its Muslim Rohingya people.

According to The Guardian, the army chief told the pope that “Myanmar has no religious discrimination at all. Likewise our military too ... performs for the peace and stability of the country”, according to a Facebook post published by the general’s office a few hours after the meeting. There is also “no discrimination between ethnic groups in Myanmar”, he added.

 

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