Pope refers to 'Rohingya' after meeting refugees

02 December, 2017, 01:30 | Author: Kim Reid
  • Pope refers to 'Rohingya' after meeting refugees

Through translators, he also spoke to a group of Rohingya refugees from three families, Crux reported, including 12 men, two women in niqabs, and two girls.

"Let's not close our hearts, let's not look to the other side", the pope said during an interfaith prayer for peace in Dhaka, according to Crux, a Catholic news website. He had been warned by his Catholic representatives in the country not to use the term for fear of alienating the Buddhist majority and causing difficulties for the nation's 600,000 Catholics.

Arriving in Bangladesh from Myanmar, he said it also was "imperative" for world governments to immediately provide assistance to help the Bangladeshi government cope with Asia's worst refugee crisis in decades.

Pope refers to 'Rohingya' after meeting refugees
Pope refers to 'Rohingya' after meeting refugees

Hours after arriving in Bangladesh he addressed the issue head-on, calling for "decisive" worldwide measures to address the "grave crisis".

The word is politically sensitive in mainly Buddhist Myanmar because many there refuse to see the Rohingya as a distinct ethnic group.

He had avoided saying the word days earlier when in Myanmar.

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His visit comes days after the disappearance of a Catholic priest in the same village where suspected Islamist extremists hacked a Catholic grocer to death a year ago.

Previous year he took three Syrian families, all Muslim, back to the Vatican after visiting them on the Greek island of Lesbos, a hotspot for asylum seekers.

Francis greeted and blessed a group of Rohingya refugees, holding their hands and listening to their stories in a show of solidarity. Around 100,000 Bangladeshi Catholics crammed into a park in central Dhaka, cheering and chanting "viva il papa" ("long live the pope") as Francis was driven through the crowd in a partly open Popemobile made specially for the occasion.

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His comments to the Rohingya came after Francis led a giant open-air mass in Dhaka.

His Bangladesh visit comes days after a priest, Walter William Rosario, went missing in Natore district, where a Christian businessman was murdered previous year.

Thousands of Catholics from different parts of the country attended the mass prayer seeking harmony and peace in the world.

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Christians make up less than 0.5 percent of officially secular Bangladesh's population of 160 million and community leaders say it has become more hard to practise their faith openly.

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