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Pope skirts Rohingya issue in talks to Myanmar’s political, religious leaders

November 28, 2017

Pope Francis avoided any direct reference to the plight of the Rohingya minority during November 28 talks to political and religious leaders in Myanmar.

The Pontiff spoke generally about “a commitment to justice and respect for human rights” and made a pointed reference to the UN’s universal declaration of human rights, during a talk with government officials and members of the diplomatic corps. He said: “Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance, and wide nation-building.”

The people of Myanmar have “suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and hostilities that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions,” the Pope said. But apparently accepting suggestions that a direct reference to the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya people would add fuel to religious controversies, he did not name the issue that has caused human-rights activists to condemn the Myanmar regime.

Later the Pope met with a group of Myanmar’s religious leaders, again delivering a message that emphasized reconciliation but did not mention the Rohingya. “We are all different, and each confession has its own riches,” he said. A peaceful society, he added, is “built on a chorus of differences.”

Pope Francis held a private meeting with Sitagu Sayadaw, a Buddhist monk who has been accused of encouraging violence against the Rohingya and other religious minorities. Vatican officials offered no details on the Pope’s talk with the Buddhist leader, which had not been listed on the schedule of papal activities.

In his talk with religious leaders, which he delivered without a prepared text, the Pope decried a “global tendency toward uniformity,” saying that it is a destructive force. He encouraged the people of Myanmar to reject this sort of “cultural colonization.”


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  • Posted by: vjenkins71201 - Nov. 29, 2017 2:00 PM ET USA

    I feel badly for this group not being given notice during Pope Francis' visit. The Rohingya have suffered at the hands of the Buddhists, monks in particular.The govt. of Myanmar should uphold the rights of the group over the protests of the Buddhists.

  • Posted by: feedback - Nov. 28, 2017 2:16 PM ET USA

    Unfortunately, this could be perceived by the Myanmar government as a veiled green-light for further persecution of that minority.