Pope Francis Defends Ethnic Rights, Avoids ‘Rohingya’ Term in Myanmar

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Pope Francis has delivered a speech in his historic Myanmar visit. In his speech, Pope Francis has demanded respect for all the ethnic communities but consciously avoided the term Rohingya.

Pope Francis, although missed out the term ‘Rohingya’, strongly defended the rights of ethnic minorities in his keynote speech.

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.”

Different rights groups had called on him to address Rohingyas by name to put more pressure on the Myanmar government to seek a solution.

Since August 25, the government of Myanmar has been accused of killing hundreds of Rohingyas and displacing them in tens of thousands.

The government of Myanmar, a country formerly known as Burma, labels them as ‘Bengali’ instead of ‘Rohingyas’ and demands the group has been migrated from Bangladesh, so they shouldn’t be listed as an ethnic group in Myanmar.

Pope Francis said the people of Myanmar 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.”

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

The Pope met Myanmar’s army chief and the country’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi before delivering his keynote speech.

 Aung San Suu Kyi said that “social, economic and political” issues had “eroded trust and understanding, harmony and co-operation between different communities in Rakhine”.

She admitted that the Rakhine state “most strongly captured the attention of the world”.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has expressed disappointment as Pope Francis didn’t mention Rohingyas by their name. But the group praised Pope’s Myanmar visit because it shed more light on the plight of the persecuted people.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Campaign Director Ming Yu Hah said, “Pope Francis’ visit has also helped focus international attention on Myanmar and the horrific crimes being carried out against the Rohingya people on a daily basis by Myanmar authorities.”

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