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Pope's Myanmar speech avoids reference to Rohingya

Pope's Myanmar speech avoids reference to Rohingya
From BBC - November 28, 2017

Pope Francis has delivered a keynote speech in Myanmar, demanding "respect for each ethnic group" but without referring specifically to its Muslim Rohingya community.

Rights groups had urged the Pope to use the term to back the community.

However, the Catholic Church in the country had told him the term could cause difficulties for Catholics.

Myanmar has been accused of ethnic cleansing, with 620,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh since August.

Myanmar's government rejects the term Rohingya, labelling the community "Bengalis". It says they migrated illegally from Bangladesh so should not be listed as one of the country's ethnic groups.

Although he made no direct reference to the Rohingya, the Pope's speech was a strong defence of ethnic rights.

He said: "The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group - none excluded - to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good."

Francis said Myanmar's greatest treasure was its people and that they had "suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and hostilities that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions".

"As the nation now works to restore peace, the healing of those wounds must be a paramount political and spiritual priority."

He added: "Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building."

Francis has used the term Rohingya in the past, in support of what he has termed his Rohingya "brothers and sisters".

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Yangon, says the Pope has also met a senior ultra-nationalist Buddhist monk and the armed forces commander, and his comments there may have been more forthright.

Catholicism in Myanmar

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