Saturday, 16 December, 2017

Pope Francis wraps up diplomatically charged Asia trip with upbeat speech

Pope Francis with Bangladesh President Abdul Hamid upon his arrival in Dhaka on Nov. 30 Pope Francis explains why he omitted Rohingya from Myanmar speech
Ben Pena | 05 December, 2017, 08:52

Still, finally being able to meet some of the Rohingya refugees December 1 in Bangladesh was an emotional moment.

Pope Francis is welcomed by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo upon his arrival at the airport in Yangon, Myanmar.

On Friday in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, Francis held an emotional encounter with Muslim Rohingya refugees from Burma and then used the word Rohingya for the first time on the trip, although he had defended them by name twice from the Vatican earlier this year.

"If I would have used the word, the door would have closed", he told reporters December 2 during his flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Rome.

The United Nations and U.S. State Department have called on Myanmar to stop the brutal crackdown on the Rohingya minority.

The pope passed a busy schedule during his final day here as he was greeted by hundreds of Bangladeshi nuns at the Mother Teresa House clinic at Tejgaon in the morning, BSS adds. The Myanmar military, claiming it is cracking down on militants, has been accused of a massive persecution of the Rohingya to the point that some describe it as "ethnic cleansing".

"I will share my pain with him", the woman said of the pope, referring to him the "head of the Christians". The usually forthright pontiff walked a diplomatic tightrope during his four days in Myanmar - the first papal visit to the country - avoiding any direct reference to the Rohingya in public while appealing to Buddhist leaders to overcome "prejudice and hatred".

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Myanmar Bishop John Hsane Hgyi went even further Wednesday, casting doubt about the reported atrocities against the Rohingya, and urging critics of the Myanmar government to go to the scene "to study the reality and history" of the issue and learn the truth.

As the Pope said, he didn't have the pleasure of slamming the door in their face publicly with a denunciation but had the satisfaction of dialogue, which was in a way more effective. "I want my torturers to be punished", she said.

"I was crying, but tried to hide it", the pope told reporters. So he asked for a microphone and spoke about their God-given dignity and the obligation believers of all faiths have to stand up for them as brothers and sisters.

He added: "They wept too".

Meanwhile, on the other side of Myanmar, on the Thai-Myanmar border, as foreign investment enhances development in Myanmar, refugees and IDPs on the border areas are facing the harsh reality of diminished aid from worldwide donors groups.

The pope was asked what he thought of recent criticism by human rights groups of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and de facto leader of Myanmar's civilian government, over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

One refugee expressed gratitude that the pope had finally uttered the word Rohingya, and said he believed the meeting would have a big impact.

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