Vatican City (BBN) – Pope Francis of the Roman Catholic Church is scheduled to come to Bangladesh and Myanmar and visit Rohingya minefield on a seven-day trip beginning from November 26.
Pope Francis will wade into the religious and political minefield of Myanmar’s crackdown on Rohingya Muslims and the effects of their exodus to Bangladesh when he visits both the countries next month, reports the Bangkok Post.
The Vatican on Tuesday released the itinerary for the November 26 to December 2 trip, which has taken on greater visibility since Myanmar security forces responded to Rohingya militant attacks with a broad crackdown in August.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in what the United Nations has called “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
The itinerary makes no mention of a papal meeting with Rohingya in either country.
Francis, however, is likely to at least refer to their plight since he has already denounced the “persecution of our Rohingya brothers” on several occasions from the Vatican.
The trip motto is “peace, harmony and love among people of different faiths”.
Francis’ first speech in Myanmar is likely to refer to the issue when he addresses Myanmar’s top civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, government officials and Myanmar’s diplomatic corps in the political capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on November 28, his first full day of activities in the country.
The following day he meets with the Sangha supreme council of Myanmar’s Buddhist monks, one of the most socially and politically influential institutions in the majority Buddhist country.
The group has been silent over the population’s criticism of the Rohingya.
Myanmar’s Catholic cardinal, Cardinal Maung Bo, has defended Suu Kyi against international criticism over the Rohingya crackdown, stressing that her role is limited by the constitution and that the army is the main power-broker in the country.
After a Mass for Myanmar’s tiny Catholic community, Francis travels to Bangladesh, where he is expected to address delicate interfaith relations during an interreligious meeting on December 1 in the garden of the archbishops’ residence.
The mostly Muslim nation of 160 million has faced a series of attacks by Islamic militants since 2013 that have targeted atheist bloggers, religious minorities, gay rights activists and foreign aid workers.