Pope Francis and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi attend a meeting with members of the civil society and diplomatic corps in Naypyitaw, Myanmar November 28, 2017. REUTERS/Max Rossi
Yangon, November 28 (IANS) Pope Francis, who is on a state visit to Myanmar, met a group of 17 leaders from various religious faiths here on Tuesday, urging them to defend their identities and resist cultural colonialism.
The Pope spoke in Spanish during the 40-minute meeting and drew a difference between unity and uniformity, warning that while unity was beautiful, an insistence on uniformity could lead to cultural colonialism, reports Efe news.
“Everyone has their values, their wealth and their shortcomings. Each faith has their traditions, their wealth to give, and this can only happen if we live in peace,” he said.
The meeting was held at the archdiocesan headquarters, where the Pope is staying after he arrived here on Monday.
The Bishop of the Pathein Diocese in Myanmar John Hsane Hgyi had opened the meeting, followed by leaders from Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Anglican and Roman Catholic faiths, according to Vatican spokesperson Greg Burke.
During the meeting, the pontiff urged Myanmar’s religious leaders to understand the value of ethnic and religious differences they represented, rather than be daunted by them.
He also met Buddhist leader Sitagu Sayadaw separately to discuss peaceful coexistence among communities in the country that has been in the spotlight for months over continuing atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Pope will travel to capital Nay Pyi Taw later on Tuesday to meet President Htin Kyaw and Nobel Peace Laureate and the de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The humanitarian crisis of the Rohingya plays a crucial role in Pope Francis’ visit to Myanmar.
On Thursday he will head to neighbouring Bangladesh in an attempt to mediate the crisis, which the UN has dubbed a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The pontiff will become the first Catholic leader to visit Dhaka since 1986.
In Bangladesh, Francis is scheduled to meet a small group of Rohingya refugees in a symbolic gesture.
Pope says Myanmar should commit to respect for human rights
NAYPYITAW (Reuters) – Pope Francis said on Tuesday that Myanmar is suffering from civil conflict and hostilities “that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions”, but in a speech in the country’s capital he did not refer to the minority Rohingya Muslims.
“The arduous process of peacebuilding and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights,” he said, speaking after Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi had made an address.
“Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nationbuilding,” the pope added.
The pope’s visit to Myanmar comes after an exodus of more than 620,000 Rohingya from Rakhine state to the southern tip of Bangladesh following a military crackdown that the United States last week branded “ethnic cleansing”.
His trip is so delicate that some papal advisers warned him against even saying the word “Rohingya”, lest he set off a diplomatic incident that could turn the country’s military and government against minority Christians.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens nor as members of a distinct ethnic group with their own identity, and it rejects the term “Rohingya” and its use.
Pope Francis did not use the word in his speech.