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Pope Francis Sidesteps Reference To Rohingya In Myanmar Speech

Pope Francis Sidesteps Reference To Rohingya In Myanmar Speech

Pope Francis has called for respect for rights and justice in his address in Myanmar on Tuesday, but refrained from any mentioning Rohingya or the alleged ethnic cleansing that has driven huge numbers of the Muslim minority from the country.

As he shared a stage with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw, the pope talked of the need to “respect the rights of all who call this land their home.” His visit to Myanmar comes after an exodus of more than 620,000 Rohingya from Rakhine state to the southern tip of Bangladesh after a military crackdown that the UN, US and UK have described as ethnic cleansing.

“The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect of the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity,” Francis said, speaking after Aung San Suu Kyi had made an address.

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

The Rohingya is not recognized by Myanmar as citizens or as members of a distinct ethnic group with their own identity, and it rejects the term “Rohingya” and its use.

Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said “Rohingya have been stripped of so many things but their name should never be one of them”.

However, the EU’s ambassador to Myanmar, Kristian Schmidt, praised the speech, saying “He didn’t need to. It was written all over the speech, between the lines,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be about specific words. It was all about values. And on values it was absolutely eloquent and strong.”

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November 28th, 2017

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