Pope Francis calls for an end to persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar


Prior to the announcement that he is to visit Mayannar, Pope Francis has appealed for an end to the violent persecution of the minority population in Burma.

“Sad news has reached us of the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters, a religious minority,” the Holy Father told pilgrims and tourist in St Peter’s Square.

“I would like to express my full closeness to them – and let all of us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of good will to help them, who shall give them their full rights.”

Later in the week, the Vatican confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh in November.

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority who live mostly in Rakhine State on the western coast of Burma and practice Islam.

The government of Burma – also known as Myanmar – does not recognize the citizenship or the ethnic minority status of the Rohingya.

The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Myanmar (CBCM) have suggested to Pope Francis not to use the term “Rohingya” when he visits.

The CBCM put forward their suggestion to the pope’s representative in the country Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam, during their biannual meeting in June.

“We just gave suggestions that the word Rohingya remains a sensitive issue in the country and it is better not to use it during his visit,” said Archbishop Alexander Pyone Cho of Pyay, whose diocese covers Rakhine State.

Some Myanmar Catholics have voiced their concerns online. “We pray that pope will not use Rohingya,” “It is better not to use Rohingya and raise Rakhine issue,” and “Church leaders should suggest pope not to use Rohingya,” were some online comments made by Myanmar Catholics.

However,  several faith leaders speaking with ucanews.com hold different views.

Wunna Shwe, joint secretary general of the Myanmar’s Islamic Religious Affairs Council, said he welcomed the news of the pope’s visit.

“As a religious leader, Pope Francis can use Rohingya in his prayers in Myanmar as this is not an attempt to interfere with another country’s politics,” Wunna Shwe told ucanews.com.

He said that the pope’s visit would accelerate harmony and dialogue among the country’s different faiths.

Ashin Thuriya, a Yangon-based monk involved in interfaith activities, said he is very glad that Pope Francis will visit Myanmar and agrees it will bring harmony to the country.

“I have no concerns on whether the pope will talk about the Rakhine issue as I understand that the Catholic leader already understands the reality of Myanmar,” Ashin Thuriya told ucanews.com.

Bishop Pyone Cho said the pope’s Nov. 27-30 visit is for all of Myanmar’s people and is aimed at helping bring peace to the country. The visit is not about the Rakhine issue unlike how the international media try to link it to, he said.

Kyaw Min, chairman of a Yangon-based Rohingya party said the pope should decide himself whether to use the term Rohingya. “I appeal to Pope Francis to discuss the plight of Rohingya when he meets with government’s leaders,” Kyaw Min told ucanews.com.


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News category: Asia Pacific.

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