NEW DELHI: Pope Francis issued a stinging criticism on the Myanmar’s harsh treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority community, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to keep their culture and Muslim faith.
“They have been suffering for years…simply because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith,” decried Francis, who is slated to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh between November 27 and December 2, where the Rohingya Muslim minority is suffering extreme persecution.
In August, condemning atrocities committed by Burma, the Pontiff urging worshippers gathered in St Peter’s Square in Rome to pray that God “saves” the persecuted minority.
“Sad news has arrived of the persecution of the religious minority, our Rohingya brothers,” condemned Pope Francis.
“I would like to express my full closeness to them. Let us all ask the Lord to save them, and to elicit men and women of goodwill to help them, for them to be given their full rights.”
The Pope went on to say, “Let us pray for our Rohingya brethren.”
Some 146,000 Rohingya Muslims in the region have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in less than two weeks, overwhelming refugee camps that were already bursting at the seams and triggering warnings of a humanitarian crisis.
Many more have died trying to flee the fighting in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where witnesses say entire villages have been burned to the ground since Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on August 25, prompting a military-led crackdown.
Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, while Myanmar is dominantly Buddhist, with Christians occupying a very small percentage of the population.
Myanmar refers to Rohingya as Bengalis and denied citizenship, contending they were illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, though many Rohingya families have lived in Myanmar for generations.
With agencies inputs