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2 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 2 December, 2017 01:09:46 AM

Pope uses word ‘Rohingya’

It’s time to help Rohingyas, he says
Pope uses word ‘Rohingya’
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina makes a courtesy call on Pope Francis at the Vatican embassy in the capital yesterday. Focus Bangla Photo

Pope Francis yesterday referred to refugees who have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh as ‘Rohingya’, using the politically sensitive name for the persecuted minority for the first time on an Asia tour dominated by their plight after meeting some of them in Dhaka, reports AFP.

In a brief but strongly worded speech that followed an emotional encounter with a small group of Rohingyas, pope asked for forgiveness for the Rohingyas who have suffered ‘in the face of the world's indifference’.   

 “Today the presence of God is also called Rohingya,” the pope said on the sidelines of a gathering with the leaders of different faiths in Dhaka.

"Your tragedy is very hard, very great, but it has a place in our hearts. In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world's indifference, I ask for your forgiveness."

“Many in Bangladesh talked about your misery. It’s time to help you. We will continuously work to establish your right,” he added.

More than 620,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh in the last three months, fleeing a violent military crackdown in mainly Buddhist Myanmar that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing.

Among those the pope met was Shawkat Ara, a 12-year-old Rohingya orphan who broke down in tears shortly after the pope spoke to her and gently touched her head.

"My parents were killed. I don't have any joy," she told AFP, saying she had lost her entire family in an attack by the military in Myanmar.

Pope Francis is known for championing the rights of refugees and has repeatedly expressed his support for the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority whom he has described as his "brothers and sisters".

But the usually forthright pontiff walked a diplomatic tightrope during his four days in Myanmar -- the first ever papal visit to the country -- avoiding any direct reference to the ethnic cleansing allegations in public while appealing to Buddhist leaders to overcome "prejudice and hatred".

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

But as in Myanmar, he avoided using the term "Rohingya", drawing criticism from some rights activists and refugees.

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

The 80-year-old Roman Catholic leader has frequently sought to influence a world he sees as indifferent to the plight of refugees forced to

leave their homelands, whether through poverty or conflict.

He has praised Bangladesh for giving refuge to the Rohingya, who have brought with them stories of horrific abuse at the hands of the Myanmar military and local Buddhist mobs, including rape, arson and murder.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made a courtesy call on Pope Francis at Vatican embassy in the capital yesterday, UNB adds.

PM's Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim said Pope and Prime Minister exchanged greetings followed by a 20-minute private conversation. After the meeting, the Prime Minister introduced her younger sister Sheikh Rehana with Pope. Son of Rehana Radwan Mujib Siddiq and his wife Peppe Siddiq were also present.

Pope Francis, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and family members of Bangabandhu took photographs.

Our diplomatic correspondent adds: The small group of Rohingyas, who met the pontiff, are among the hundreds of thousands who had crossed into Bangladesh to escape the atrocities of the Myanmar security forces, local Buddhist mobs and people of other ethnic groups in Rakhine. They were brought to Dhaka from the refugee camps to meet the spiritual leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Following the completion of the inter-religious and ecumenical meeting for peace at the garden of the house of the archbishop of Dhaka at Ramna, pope listened to the misery of the Rohingyas on the stage and expressed his sympathy. He shook hands with the males and put his hand on the heads of the Rohingya children.

According to diplomatic sources, the pope’s meeting in the capital with the persecuted Rohingya is a ‘reflection of his support and solidarity with them’.

Earlier, representatives of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian religions and civil society spoke at the programme and shed lights on the plight of Rohingyas and placed great emphasis on the peace and harmony among all the religions.

All the representatives called upon the pope to use his influence to help mitigate the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas. They said that overall there exists a peaceful harmony among the religions, but on very few occasions some vested quarters including political element try to disrupt it.

This should be stopped through coordinated efforts of all, they added.  In his welcome address, Archbishop of Dhaka Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario quoted a Vatican hierarchy saying that Bangladesh is the best place for religious harmony.

“We live in harmony. But, we feel pain when this peace is disturbed,” he said.

Noted Islamic thinker Maulana Fariduddin Masud said that his role with regard to Rohingyas will help this persecuted community. He also laid emphasis on spreading the spirit of peace and harmony between all the religions of the country.

Condemning the atrocities in Rakhine against Rohingyas, the representative of the Buddhist community in Bangladesh Shuddhananda Mohathero said that Buddhism, which is the main religion of Myanmar, always emphasises on non-violence.

Professor Emeritus Dr Anisuzzaman said that the pope’s visit to Myanmar may help change the mindset of the Government of Myanmar in regards to the Rohingyas.

Although there always is religious harmony in the country, sometimes efforts are made to disturb it, he said.

“Actually, those people are minority,” he added.

Earlier in the morning, the pope attended a ‘Holy Mass and Presbyteral Ordination’ in Suhrawardy Udyan park in the capital.

Upon arrival, he greeted the people coming in numbers from different parts of the country before ordaining sixteen priests.

Before leaving, outside the sacristy, Pope Francis briefly greeted the cardinals and bishops of the region.

In his speech, Pope Francis told the gathering, “I know that many of you have come a great distance, a journey of over two days… thank you for your generosity! This is a sign of the love you have for the Church, a sign of the love you have for Jesus Christ. Thank you very much! Thank you for your generosity, thank you for your fidelity. Carry on, in the spirit of the Beatitudes.”

He asked the newly ordained priests to work for peace and love, and to practice what they teach.



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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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