Pope Francis flew to Myanmar on Monday in one of his most sensitive trips yet, as religious tensions fester in the mainly Buddhist nation that has bristled at global outrage over its treatment of Rohingya Muslims.
Myanmar’s military is accused of waging an ethnic cleansing campaign against the stateless Muslim minority, more than 600,000 of whom have fled a crackdown in northern Rakhine State for neighbouring Bangladesh over the past three months.
The Pope has been forthright about his sympathy for the Rohingya from afar, calling them “brothers and sisters” and deploring the plight of hundreds of thousands of children swept up in the violence.
Francis will meet powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during the trip in a highly anticipated encounter between a religious leader who has championed the rights of refugees and the man accused of overseeing the charge to drive out the Rohingya.
But the country is holding its breath over what the pontiff will say on Myanmar soil, where any mention of the word Rohingya could unleash anger from a public that broadly supports the army campaign.
Many in the Buddhist-majority nation do not view the minority as indigenous -- referring to them as “Bengalis” -- and view them with hostility.
Myanmar’s Catholics -- just over one percent of the country’s 51 million people.
Nov 27, 2017