Pope Francis lands in Myanmar, faces diplomatic test amid Rohingya crisis – National


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Pope Francis arrived Monday on a go to to Myanmar and Bangladesh to encourage their tiny Catholic communities and attain out to a few of Asia’s most peripheral and poor, however the massive query looming is whether or not he’ll utter the phrase “Rohingya” whereas he’s right here.

The “will he or received’t he?” challenge has dominated debate earlier than Francis’ journey, which started Monday and ends with a youth rally in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Dec. 2.

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Upon arrival in Yangon, the pope was greeted by native Catholic officers and his motorcade handed by hundreds of Myanmar’s Catholics, who lined the roads, carrying conventional apparel and enjoying music.

Youngsters in conventional costume greeted him as he drove in a easy blue sedan, chanting “Viva il papa!” (Lengthy reside the pope) and waving small plastic Burmese and Holy See flags. Posters wishing Francis “a heartiest of welcome” lined the route into city.

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En route from Rome, Francis greeted journalists on the airplane and apologized for the anticipated warmth, which was 32 C upon his arrival and is predicted to rise throughout his keep.

In Myanmar, Francis will meet individually with the nation’s civilian chief, Aung San Suu Kyi, its highly effective navy chief and Buddhist monks. He’ll greet a delegation of Rohingya Muslims and meet with Bangladesh’s political and non secular management in Dhaka. Plenty for the Catholic devoted and conferences with the native church hierarchy spherical out the itinerary in every nation.

Pope Francis to hold separate meetings with Rohingya Muslims, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Myanmar’s native Catholic Church has publicly urged Francis to keep away from utilizing the time period “Rohyingya,” which is shunned by many domestically as a result of the ethnic group is just not a acknowledged minority within the nation. Rohingya in latest months have been topic to what the United Nations says is a marketing campaign of “textbook ethnic cleaning” by the navy in poverty-wracked Rakhine state.

Francis, although, has already prayed for “our Rohingya brothers and sisters,” and any choice to keep away from the time period might be considered as a capitulation to Myanmar’s navy and a stain on his legacy of standing up for probably the most oppressed and marginalized of society, regardless of how impolitic.

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“Being a spiritual chief — Catholic chief — means that he’s well-regarded, however in fact there may be this fear if he says one thing, individuals would possibly say, ‘OK, he simply got here to meddle,’” stated Burmese analyst Khin Zaw Win, a former political prisoner.

“So, I believe loads of diplomacy is required, along with the general public relations.”

The journey was deliberate earlier than the newest spasm of violence erupted in August, when Rohingya militants attacked safety positions in Rakhine. Myanmar safety forces responded with a scorched-earth marketing campaign that pressured greater than 620,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh, the place they’re residing in squalid refugee camps.

Within the Kutupalong refugee camp in southern Bangladesh, Senu Ara, 35, welcomed Francis’ arrival for what he would possibly be capable to do for the refugees.

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“He would possibly assist us get the peace that we’re desperately trying to find,” she stated. “Even when we keep right here he’ll make our scenario higher. If he decides to ship us again, he’ll achieve this in a peaceable manner.”

The indicators from the Vatican going into the journey had been blended about how Francis would tackle the refugee plight: The Vatican spokesman used the time period “Rohingya” in a pre-trip briefing and stated “It’s not a prohibited phrase” so far as the Vatican was involved. However the Holy See’s prime diplomat, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, averted it in an interview with Vatican media on the eve of the journey.

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The controversy isn’t simply semantic: Myanmar’s authorities and many of the Buddhist majority contemplate them Bengali migrants from Bangladesh residing illegally within the nation, although Rohingya have lived there for generations.

“It’s going to be a difficult scenario (if he makes use of the phrase), I believe as a result of most people can’t settle for it,” stated farmer Win Myaing.

Striking drone footage shows thousands of Rohingya refugees entering Bangladesh

Seaman Kyaw Thu Maung stated the difficulty is tough as a result of the time period “Rohingya” carries a lot political weight for all of Myanmar’s individuals.

“However my feeling is that if the pope goes to speak in regards to the Rakhine challenge, the individuals aren’t going to love the pope anymore,” he stated.

Related Press journalists Min Kyi Thein in Yangon and Rishabh R. Jain in Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, contributed to this report.

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