Pope urges respect for rights, justice and ethnic diversity in Myanmar speech

Source:AFP Published: 2017/11/28 23:28:40

Pontiff, Suu Kyi avoid mention of Rohingya plight


Pope Francis speaks with Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during their meeting in Naypyidaw on Tuesday. Photo: AFP



Pope Francis called for respect for rights and justice in a keenly-watched address in Myanmar on Tuesday, but refrained from any mention of the Rohingya or the alleged ethnic cleansing that has driven huge numbers of the Muslim minority from the country.

Sharing a stage with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi in the capital Naypyidaw, he did not address the Rohingya crisis head-on but instead tip-toed around the unfolding humanitarian emergency.

Peace can only be achieved through "justice and a respect for human rights," he said in a broadly-framed speech that also called for "respect for each ethnic group and its identity."

The word "Rohingya" was entirely absent from his speech.

Rights groups had urged the pope to tackle Myanmar about its treatment of the minority during his four-day visit, but the local Catholic Church had cautioned him against straying into the Rohingya issue.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has been ostracized by a global rights community that once adored her.

She spoke of the challenges her country faces as it creeps out of the shadow of five decades of military rule, but also did not reference the Rohingya.

The government aimed to build the nation by "protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all," she said in a short speech, that gave a nod to global concern over the "situation in the Rakhine."

The pope's peace mission is studded with pitfalls in Myanmar, where a monk-led Buddhist nationalist movement has fostered widespread loathing for the Rohingya.

In recognition of those tensions his public speech was "very carefully worded," Myanmar-based political analyst Richard Horsey told AFP, speculating "he is likely to have been more forthright in private meetings with Myanmar's leaders."


Newspaper headline: Respect each ethnic group: Pope


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