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No reference to ‘Rohingya’ in pope’s speech

Sayeed Muhammad

While delivering a keynote speech in Myanmar, Pope Francis, on the second day of a four-day visit to the country, demanded “respect for each ethnic group” without specifying the Muslim Rohingya community.Rights groups had earlier urged him to use the term for backing the community. Myanmar’s Catholic Church had told him the term could cause difficulties for Catholics.
Though speech made no direct reference to the Rohingya yesterday, it was a strong defence of ethnic rights, reports BBC. He said: “Myanmar’s future must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”Myanmar’s people had “suffered greatly and continue suffering from civil conflict and hostilities lasting all too long and creating deep divisions”, he observed.”As the nation now works to restore peace, the healing of those wounds must be a paramount political and spiritual priority.”He added: “Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building.”Before the speech, he met Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who too avoided mentioning the Rohingya Muslims.However, she accepted the situation in Rakhine state had “most strongly captured the attention of the world”.She said “social, economic and political” issues had “eroded trust and understanding, harmony and co-operation between different communities in Rakhine”.In an earlier 40-minute meeting in Yangon with Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu, Jewish and Christian leaders, he also made no direct reference to the Rohingya.

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