Pope Lands in Bangladesh amid Worsening Rohingya Crisis - Religious Freedom News

Pope Lands in Bangladesh amid Worsening Rohingya Crisis

UN Official Unsure over Myanmar’s Rohingya Repatriation
December 1, 2017

Pope Lands in Bangladesh amid Worsening Rohingya Crisis

Pope Francis arrived Thursday in Bangladesh as part of his Asia tour, amid worsening Rohingya crisis, The Associated Press reports.


The Pope urged the international community to take “decisive

measures” to resolve the causes of the mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar.


Security was a particular concern after a Christian priest went missing in northern Bangladesh on Tuesday, and his family reported they got calls demanding money. Police said they were looking for the man but would not confirm if it was kidnapping.


The Pope arrived to Bangladesh from Myanmar, where he refrained from speaking out about the Rohingya Muslim crisis out of diplomatic deference to his hosts, who do not recognize the minority as their own ethnic group.


Since the crisis started, more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and poured into Bangladesh refugee camps. Bangladesh’s leading English-language newspaper, The Daily Star, said in an editorial it felt “slightly let down” that the Pope didn’t mention the crisis specifically while in Myanmar.


The Pope won’t visit the refugee camps while in Bangladesh, but he will host an interfaith peace meeting on Friday in the garden of the Dhaka archbishops’ residence.


The Vatican defended his silence in Myanmar, saying the Pope wanted to “build bridges” with the predominantly Buddhist nation. However, various human rights groups and Rohingya themselves have expressed disappointment that the Pope, an advocate for refugees and the world’s most marginal, refrained from condemning what the UN has said is a textbook case of ethnic cleansing, AP notes.


Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said the Pope took seriously the advice given to him by the local Catholic Church, which urged him to toe a cautious line and not even refer to the “Rohingya” by name during his trip to Myanmar.


“You can criticize what’s said, what’s not said, but the Pope is not going to lose moral authority on this question here,” Burke told reporters on Wednesday.


Rohingya have faced persecution and discrimination in Myanmar for decades and are denied citizenship, even though many families have lived there for generations. The situation grew worse in August when the army began what it called clearance operations in northern Rakhine state following attacks on security positions by Rohingya militants.