Today Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic church, urged respect for “each ethnicity and its identity”, adding “religious differences need not be a source of division”. This was said when on a visit to Myanmar/ Burma, when lots of people were hoping he would mention the Rohingya by name, and state the fact they’d been persecuted.
Yet Pope Francis failed and did not mention the Rohingya by name. The reason was that there were fears by the Catholic community in Myanmar/ Burma that if he criticised the government and military there would be repercussions against the small Catholic community in the country. So even the Catholic church has many strengths, including in its humanitarian work, where there are many good men and women working tirelessly to improve the living conditions of people who live in challenged situations, it has weaknesses too. The facts is that its leader, while he might look like a world peacemaker, should first and foremost look out for his own people. I’m not sure how much Pope Francis is living by the guidance Jesus gave in his Sermon on the Mount…
A group of people, the Rohingya (Muslim), have been fleeing their homes in their thousands this week and sharing stories with refugee, government and new agencies about their mistreatment in Burma/ Myanmar (majority Buddhist). More than 160,000 of Burma/ Myanmar’s 1.1 million ethnic Rohingya minority have fled to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories that they say describe ethnic cleansing.
Ethnic cleansing – the mass expulsion or killing of members of one ethnic or religious group in an area by those of another.
The leader in Burma/ Myanmar is Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who said in 1991: “Wherever suffering is ignored, there will be the seeds of conflict, for suffering degrades and embitters and enrages.” There is a petition that she is stripped of her Nobel Prize for not stopping and condemning the attacks on the Rohingya.
News agencies are being cautious with their language when reporting the story as there have also been reports of Rohingya terrorists attacking and killing Buddhists and Hindus. So when they report on a massacre against the Rohingya they use language like the Guardian cannot independently corroborate the villagers’ accounts to protect themselves if the stories do turn out not to be true.