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Pope Meets Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh

Pope Meets Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh
Pope Francis, center, and a Rohingya Muslim refugee from Myanmar, center left, led a prayer during an interfaith event in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Friday. Credit Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

DHAKA – Meeting with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Pope Francis prayed for the persecuted minority after his decision to not directly refer to their plight when he visited their homeland, Burma.

“In the name of everyone, of those who have persecuted you, of those who have done you harm, above all for the indifference of the world, I ask forgiveness. Forgiveness,” the pope said in emotional and apparently unscripted remarks, as the survivors stood around him, New York Times reported.

The Pope was addressing an audience of around 7,000 young Catholics, Muslims and followers of other religions, on the last day of his three-day visit to Bangladesh.

The visit followed meetings in Buddhist-majority Burma, where the Pope avoided the issue of Rohingya Muslims.

Rights groups had urged the Pope to use the term Rohingya to back the community.

However, he had been warned by Catholic representatives in Burma not to use the term for fear of alienating the Buddhist majority.

Rohingya refugees waited on Friday to meet Pope Francis in Dhaka. Credit Abir Abdullah/European Pressphoto Agency

The Pope did not address his own recent silence.

“He had to be balanced over in Myanmar [Burma],” said Rafiqul Islam, a Muslim auto dealer in the audience who has participated in charity missions to bring blankets and clothing to the Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar.

“But here he can call all the world to please, help this problem. They are butchering us.”

The repression of the Rohingya has intensified dramatically since 2012 when violence between Burma’s majority Buddhist and Muslim communities swept across the state.

Ever since, the Rohingya Muslims were locked down in their villages and displacement camps, according to activists.

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