Pope Makes Waves by Not Saying a Word

Does not use term Rohingya in Myanmar speech
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 28, 2017 4:03 AM CST
Pope Declines to Say One Word in Myanmar Keynote
Pope Francis delivers his speech during a meeting with Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi, at the International Convention Centre of Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. The pontiff is in Myanmar for the first stage of a week-long visit that will also take him to neighboring Bangladesh.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

The will-he-or-won't-he has been answered: He won't. Pope Francis on Tuesday gave a keynote speech in Myanmar that was free of the word "Rohingya." Catholic leaders in the country had recommended he not use the term; doing so would be viewed as a sign of support for the minority Muslim group, which the US last week declared has been subjected to ethnic cleansing. The BBC reports the pontiff did present a "strong defense of ethnic rights." A key passage: "The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group—none excluded—to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good."

In comments to CNN, a British professor who studies the Rohingya conflict called the choice "a clear concession to the Myanmar regime and its Christian mouthpiece Cardinal Bo who have been at pains to remove the Rohingya identity, not only from the country but also from the national lexicon." As far as the lexicon goes, "Bengali" is what's used locally; it's a term that suggests what many believe: that the group consists of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though some families have called Myanmar home for centuries. But there may still be another chance for Francis to utter it. As Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, puts it to the AP, "we hope that the pope will use the word Rohingya in his Mass (Wednesday)." (Read about one Rohingya woman's wrenching experience.)

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