Pope set for Myan­mar peace push next month

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Athens Zaw Zaw and Marion Thibaut

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.

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