Pope Francis utters the word ‘Rohingya’ after criticism
But as he met a multi-faith group in Dhaka on Friday, at St Mary’s Cathedral, he told refugees: “The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.”
In the past, Francis – whose papacy so far has been widely characterised by advocacy for refugees and vulnerable minorities – has repeatedly condemned violence against the mostly Muslim minority, calling them “our Rohingya brothers and sisters” and labelling the Christians who refuse to treat them humanely as “hypocrites”.
But he came under fire after meeting with Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, and failing to mention the minority in his speech.
More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in fear of abuses by Myanmar soldiers.
The ethnic group is subject to a raft of discriminatory measures by Myanmar’s government, such as being deprived of citizenship.
Journalists and human rights groups have documented widespread rape, killing, and destruction of homes by government troops but Aung San Suu Kyi has yet to recognise the atrocities and condemn the Myanmar military.
|Tears run down the face of a Rohingya refugee as she and others pray during their meeting with Pope Francis in Dhaka[Damir Sagolj/Reuters]|