Pope Francis Meets Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh, Asks Forgiveness

Pope Francis met Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh
Pope Francis greets a Rohingya refugee man in Bangladesh on December 1, 2017. Photo: James Martin, SJ/CTV

Pope Francis on Friday met with Rohingya refugees on the last day of his trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh. The pope met 16 Rohingya refugees after an interfaith religious service in Bangladesh, where more than 624,000 people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have fled following a military and police crackdown that killed and displaced scores of people.

Francis asked the refugees for forgiveness “for the indifference of the world.”

“Let’s not close our hearts, let’s not look to the other side, the presence of God today is also called Rohingya,” Francis added, using the word for the first time.

Catholic leaders in Myanmar had pressured the pope not to refer to the Rohingya by name, but on Thursday he praised Bangladesh’s “spirit of generosity and solidarity … in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State.”

On Thursday, Francis met with President Abdul Hamid of Bangladesh, and urged the international community to take “decisive measures” to address the Rohingya refugee crisis “not only by working to resolve the political issues … but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs.”

Earlier this week the pope vitiated Myanmar, where he met with civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military chief, General Min Aung Hlaing. After meeting Ms. Suu Kyi on Tuesday, Francis urged “respect for each ethnic group and identity,” without explicitly mentioning the Rohingya.

On Tuesday, the International Organization for Migration said over 1,800 Rohingya refugees had arrived in Bangladesh in the past week.