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Pope defends Rohingya Muslims ahead of Myanmar trip


Foreign and Commonwealth Office | CC

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 08/28/17

"Let all of us ask the Lord to save them," he appeals after praying the Angelus.

Pope Francis will make Myanmar and Bangladesh the site of his 21st papal voyage outside Italy this winter, with a November 27-December 2 visit planned to the two countries.

On Sunday, after praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square, and a day before the Holy See would announce the dates of the upcoming trip, the pope spoke out about one of the biggest human rights issues in the region.

He made an appeal for the Rohingya people, saying, “Sad news has reached us of the persecution of our Rohingya brothers and sisters, a religious minority. 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.”

Vatican Radio gave a summary of the plight of the Rohingya people:

The Rohingya are an ethnic minority who live mostly on the western coast of Burma, and practice Islam. Myanmar does not recognize the citizenship or the ethnic minority status of the Rohingya.

After several years of fighting with the majority Buddhist population in the state, Rohingya began fleeing their native land

en masse

, precipitating a refugee crisis.

Organized violence against the Rohingya, with the participation of government forces, has been underway since at least 2015, with spikes of intensity in 2016 and 2017.

Nearly 100,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past year, though the Bangladeshi government has yet to recognize the refugee status of the displaced minority.

Most recent violence

Pope Francis’ appeal Sunday follows fighting between the Rohingya and the regular Burmese army on Friday in the city of Maungdaw, which is reported to be the worst since October of last year, and has prompted evacuations from the area of government personnel and of non-Muslims. Nearly 100 people are officially reported dead in the ongoing clashes, including 80 Rohingya insurgents and 12 members of the Burmese security forces deployed in the theatre.

Read more:
Rohingya: The next ethnic cleansing you’re not hearing about

Read more:
Philippines Says It’s Ready to Shelter 3,000 Rohingya Refugees

Pope Francis
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