Pope set for Myanmar peace push next month
POPE Francis will push for peace during his visit to mainly-Buddhist Myanmar, a church official said yesterday, a trip that plunges the pontiff into the centre of a simmering religious conflict which has sparked an exodus of Muslim Rohingya.
Myanmar’s western Rakhine state has been torn apart by communal bloodshed, sending more than 520,000 Rohingya racing over to neighbouring Bangladesh since late August.
The leader of the world’s Catholics will visit both nations on a highly charged trip in late November – although there are currently no plans to stop in strife-torn Rakhine or the refugee camps in Bangladesh.
“We don’t know yet what will be in his speech . . . but he is coming for the sake of the country and he will be talking about peace,” Father Mariano Soe Naing, a spokesman for the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Myanmar, said.
“There won’t be any interfaith meetings [in Myanmar] because of the lack of time,” he added.
He will talk with de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who has sparked international dismay for her perceived lack of sympathy towards the Rohingya and unwillingness to condemn alleged atrocities by the army.
Myanmar has a small roughly half a million Catholic population. The Southeast Asian nation and theVatican only established full diplomatic relations in May, after Suu Kyi met Pope Francis during a European tour.