A day after appealing for an end the violent persecution of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, the Vatican announced Pope Francis will visit the country in late November.
After the visit to the cities of Yangon and Naypyitaw in Myanmar from 27th to 30th November, the pope will travel on to Dhaka, Bangladesh, from 30th November to 2nd December, the Vatican said on 28th August.
After praying the Angelus with pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square on 27th August, Pope Francis said he was saddened by the news “of the persecution of a religious minority, our Rohingya brothers and sisters.”
News media reported violent clashes from 25th to 26th August after Rohingya fighters attacked 30 police stations. More than 100 people, mostly insurgents, have been reported killed, according to the BBC.
Most of the Rohingya population in Myanmar’s Rakhine state have been denied citizenship in Myanmar, which is predominantly Buddhist. About 120,000 Rohingya are trapped in internally displaced person camps near the state capital, Sittwe. A further 400,000 live in the state’s north, which is currently under martial law.
Media are forbidden to travel to the region, but reports of atrocities by the military, including rape, murder and burning villages, have leaked over the past year. The United Nations says more than 170,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, in the past five years.
“I would like to express my full closeness to (the Rohingya),” the pope said. “Let us ask the Lord to save them, and to raise up men and women of goodwill to help them, that they may be given full rights.”
The pope also prayed for the victims of monsoon floods in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. The devastating floods have claimed the lives of over 1,200 people and displaced millions, the Arabic news channel Al-Jazeera reported.
“I express my closeness to all the affected populations and I pray for the victims and for all who suffer due to this calamity,” Pope Francis said.
Picture: Auxiliary Bishop John Saw Yaw Han of Yangon, Myanmar, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar, passes a poster of Pope Francis on 28th August following a news conference about the pontiff’s visit to the country from 27th to 30th November. (CNS photo/Lynn Bo Bo, EPA).