Well aware he was disappointing some people by not using the word ‘Rohingya’ publicly in Myanmar, Pope Francis said his chief concern had been to get a point across, and he did.
“If I would have used the word, the door would have closed,” he told reporters on Saturday 2nd December during his flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Rome.
He spent almost an hour answering reporters’ questions after his six-day trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, but insisted that most of the questions be about the trip.
In his speeches in Myanmar, Pope Francis repeatedly referred to the obligation to defend the lives and human rights of all people. But he did not specifically mention the Rohingya, a Muslim minority from Rakhine state. The Myanmar military, claiming it is cracking down on militants, has been accused of a massive persecution of the Rohingya to the point that some describe it as ‘ethnic cleansing’.
More than 620,000 Rohingya have fled across the Bangladeshi border just since August, joining hundreds of thousands already living in refugee camps there.
For the government of Myanmar, the Rohingya do not exist; instead they are considered undocumented immigrants.
Picture: Pope Francis answers questions from journalists aboard his flight from Dhaka, Bangladesh, to Rome on Saturday 2nd December. Also pictured is Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman. (CNS photo/Paul Haring).