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Pope Francis Refers to Rohingya by Name Only After Reaching Bangladesh

Image: Pope Francis Refers to Rohingya by Name Only After Reaching Bangladesh

Pope Francis arrives on Friday to celebrate mass and the ordination of new priests at the Suhrawardy Udyan park, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

By    |   Friday, 01 December 2017 12:13 PM

Pope Francis finally referred to the Rohingya by name after leaving Myanmar and addressing a group of refugees during an interfaith meeting on Friday in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka, the BBC News reported.

It was the first time during his extended trip in Asia when the pope mentioned the group of Muslim refugees who have faced abused in Myanmar, the BBC said, noting that the United Nations has charged the Myanmar government with ethnic cleaning in connection with its treatment of the Rohingya.

Myanmar, though, has charged that the Rohingya have actually migrated from Bangladesh, referring to call them "Bengalis" rather than the Rohingya.

Pope Francis did not refer to them by name while in Myanmar, but he said during his meeting Friday that, "The presence of God today is also called Rohingya," per the BBC News.

Sky News reported that more than 620,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar's Rakhine state to Bangladesh because of a police crackdown in recent months, which led to the U.N. condemnation.

The refugees meeting with the pope included 12 men, two women and two young girls, Sky News said, adding that they had traveled from Cox's Bazar, the district bordering Myanmar where refugee camps are housing thousands of Rohingya Muslins.

"In the name of all of those who have persecuted you, hurt you, I ask forgiveness," Pope Francis told the refugees, per the BBC News. "I appeal to your large hearts to give us the forgiveness that we are asking."

Vatican spokesman Greg Burke dismissed criticism that Pope Francis diminished his moral authority by avoiding a direct reference to the group during his visit to Myanmar, CNN reported.

"People don't expect him to solve impossible problems," Burke said, per CNN.

Activists have charged that Pope Francis was now complicit in the country's strategy to delegitimize the Rohingya because he did not use the term in Myanmar, CNN noted.

"The term Rohingya is not a racial slur," European-based Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin told CNN. "It is a dignified term for more than two million people who are living across the world."

Lwin told CNN, though, that activists and Rohingya supports felt "like winners" after learning about the pope's use of the term in Bangladesh.

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Pope Francis finally referred to the Rohingya by name after leaving Myanmar and addressing a group of refugees during an interfaith meeting on Friday in the Bangladesh capital of Dhaka.
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2017-13-01
Friday, 01 December 2017 12:13 PM
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