Published: Fri, December 01, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Pope to greet Rohingya refugees at Bangladesh peace prayer

Pope to greet Rohingya refugees at Bangladesh peace prayer

POPE Francis has demanded that the worldwide community take "decisive measures" to resolve the causes of the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, breaking his recent silence over what the United Nations has declared to be a textbook case of "ethnic cleansing".

In a speech upon his arrival in Bangladesh on November 30, the pontiff did not mince words when he said that it is "imperative" to resolve the political issues that caused the "mass displacement of people".

He was urged not to use the term during his visit to Buddhist-majority Myanmar - where the group are dubbed "Bengali" migrants and not entitled to full citizenship - to avoid provoking hardline Buddhists and making the country's Catholics a target.

"When I meet him, I would like to tell him about our plight, about how Myanmar's military tortured us, killed us, raped our women, about the kind of persecution we have been facing", 35-year-old refugee Abul Fayaz told AFP in Cox's Bazar where the camps are located.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis's just ended apostolic journey to Myanmar is being acclaimed as a wonderful moment for the Church in the nation.

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But as in Myanmar, he refrained from using the word "Rohingya", instead referring to "refugees from Rakhine state".

Earlier talks between the two countries reached a broad agreement to work out a repatriation deal, but a senior Myanmar official later accused Bangladesh of dragging its feet in order to secure funding from aid agencies for hosting the refugees.

The Nobel laureate did not use the term "Rohingya". But it is important to note the pope did not mention the name Rohingya.

He said people in Bangladesh should not forget that the pope has his limitations "and he can not solve all the problems".

But a Vatican news conference in Yangon to wrap up the visit only served to highlight the diplomatic minefield that the issue had presented for Francis.

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Although the pope is not visiting a refugee camp during his trip, a group of Rohingya refugees is scheduled to attend a meeting of religious leaders with the pontiff in Dhaka on December 1.

They will have travelled almost 300 miles overnight to reach the capital Dhaka, accompanied by armed police, and want to tell the head of the Catholic Church what has happened to their people.

The pontiff later in the day paid tribute to the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whom the church leader lauded for his ideology and vision.

Noting that the future of this young democracy and the health of its political life are essentially linked to fidelity to that founding vision, Pope Francis said adding "for only through honest dialogue and respect for legitimate diversity can people reconcile divisions, overcome unilateral perspectives, and recognise the validity of differing viewpoints".

He noted that Catholics in Bangladesh have sought to play a "constructive role" in the development of the country through their schools, clinics, and dispensaries. On Thursday, the pontiff will visit a memorial for the Bangladesh war of independence in 1971 after which he will hold a meeting with President Abdul Hamid and then deliver a speech at the presidential palace.

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