His Holiness Pope Francis, in his much-anticipated trip to Myanmar, sadly neglected to even mention the plight of the Rohingya.
The leader of the Catholic Church, known as supporter of interfaith dialogue and as a voice for the downtrodden, thus missed an opportunity to lend his support to the people who are, quite possibly, the most persecuted minority in the world.
While he did address the issue of religious intolerance – stating that religious differences “need not be a source of division [but] a force for unity” – this was not enough.
The brutal treatment of the Rohingya is highly one-sided, and the fault lies squarely with the Myanmar regime – this is not a situation that merits appeasing all sides. The international community has been especially disappointing in this regard, with a number of powerful nations supporting Myanmar in its ethnic cleansing, while others have not even acknowledged it.
That is why we had hoped that a leader of the Pope’s stature would have sounded a different message.
It is perhaps understandable that he may have been reluctant to use the word “Rohingya” while a guest of Myanmar, but not to directly mention the crisis at all – a crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands ethnically cleansed and unknown numbers killed, raped, and brutalised – falls short of the expectations we have for His Holiness.
We have to reluctantly raise the question that if it were so impossible to even bring up the issue, perhaps it would have been a wiser decision to have not made the trip at all.
Be that as it may, let us now look forward and not back.
With His Holiness arriving in Bangladesh today, we trust that he will be the moral authority the world expects him to be, and speak up for the helpless and forsaken Rohingya people.
The most appalling and inhuman suffering has been inflicted upon them.
Surely, standing up for them and raising one’s voice in their defense is the Christian thing to do.
This article first appeared on Dhaka Tribune.