Pope Francis Urges ‘Respect’ for Ethnic Groups in Myanmar

Pope Francis. Photo: Long Thiên, Flickr

Pope Francis during a speech on Tuesday urged respect for human rights and ethnic groups in Myanmar but did not refer to the minority Rohingya by name.

Speaking after a meeting with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Francis called for “respect for each ethnic group and identity” and said divisions and conflict in the country had “created deep divisions.”

“Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nationbuilding,” he said.

EN : I want my visit to embrace all the people of Myanmar and to encourage the building of an inclusive society. PT: Espero que a minha visita possa abraçar toda a população de Mianmar e Bangladesh e encorajar a construção de uma sociedade inclusiva. ES: Espero que mi visita pueda abrazar a toda la población de Myanmar y animar la construcción de una sociedad reconciliada e inclusiva. IT: Spero che la mia visita possa abbracciare l’intera popolazione del Myanmar e incoraggiare la costruzione di una società inclusiva. FR : J'espère que ma visite puisse embrasser toute la population du Myanmar et encourager la construction d'une société inclusive. DE: Ich hoffe, dass mein Besuch die ganze Bevölkerung Myanmars einschließt und zum Bau einer inklusiven Gesellschaft ermutigen kann. #ApostolicJourney, #Myanmar, #ViagemApostólica, #ViajeApostólico, #ViaggioApostolico

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The pope had been under pressure by Myanmar’s Catholic leaders not to refer to the Rohingya Muslim community by name. The government considers them illegal immigrants in the country, and more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military and police launched a crackdown in August. The U.N. has referred to the campaign as one of ethnic cleansing.

On Monday, Francis met with Myanmar’s military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and other officials after arriving in the country.

“There was talk about the country’s authorities’ great responsibility in this moment of transition,” Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said.