Health Care

Pope heads to Bangladesh with Rohingya crisis looming large

Pope heads to Bangladesh with Rohingya crisis looming large”

The government and people of Bangladesh have shown exemplary generosity in welcoming hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, despite great demands placed on already limited resources, Pope Francis said.

Arriving in Bangladesh from Myanmar Nov. 30, Pope Francis wasted no time in mentioning the plight of the refugees who have been a source of concern for him for more than two years.

Even though his calls for justice, human rights and respect were widely seen as applicable to the Rohingya, who are not recognized as citizens or as members of a distinct ethnicity, rights groups such as Amnesty International said they were disappointed.

Since he arrived in Myanmar, Francis has studiously avoided the highly charged term, following advice of local Church officials.

He said he heard that Pope did not mention the word - Rohingya - in Myanmar but he believes the Pope will tell something about them in Bangladesh.

Providing shelter and basic necessities to the refugees "has been done at no little sacrifice", the pope said. More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and poured into Bangladesh refugee camps over the last few months amid a scorched earth campaign by Myanmar's military.

Rohingya who are living in camps in Bangladesh have described indiscriminate attacks by Myanmar security forces and Buddhist mobs, including killings, rapes and the torching of entire villages. He explained that the history of the Burmese - who lived for six decades without a sense of their own rights - has made it hard for them "to understand that other people have rights too", and that right now it is a learning situation in Myanmar as regards human rights, tollerance and solidarity.

Meanwhile, Mr Hamid has accused Myanmar's military of committing "ruthless atrocities" against Rohingyas and is demanding global help in returning them safely to their homes and integrating them into Myanmar society.

Francis - the first pope to visit Bangladesh in 31 years - will spend three days in the mainly-Muslim country, which is grappling with a rise in Islamist extremism that has seen Catholics attacked for their faith. He did not, however, use the word "Rohingya", which is how the refugees identify themselves.

"We remain hopeful that given Pope Francis' legacy of standing up for the oppressed, he will speak out against the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya during this very important visit", the paper added.

Francis then called on Hamid at the presidential palace, where he was led into the conference hall full of officials by toddlers and was given a miniature golden rickshaw as a gift.

Walter William Rosario, 40, had been organising for some 300 Catholics to travel to Dhaka for the pope's mass.

That goal remains elusive and, although Suu Kyi remains popular at home, she has faced a barrage of worldwide criticism for expressing doubts about reports of rights abuses against Rohingya and failing to condemn the military.



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