Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic church, on Tuesday stressed the importance of “unity in diversity” in a speech to leaders of several faiths in Myanmar’s Yangon, but did not mention the alleged persecution of the Muslim Rohingya people that has sparked an international outcry, Reuters reported.
Francis, who in the past has made statements in support of his Rohingya “brothers and sisters”, travelled from Yangon to the capital city of Nay Pyi Taw to meet Aung San Suu Kyi. There he delivered a keynote speech.
“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,” the Pope said. He added that there should be “respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good”.
Though human rights groups had urged the leader of the Vatican to mention the Rohingya people in his speech, the church’s leaders in Myanmar warned him that it could cause difficulties for Catholics, BBC reported.
However, he did speak about the civil conflict in a veiled manner. Francis said the people of Myanmar were the nation’s greatest treasure and that they had “suffered greatly, and continue to suffer”. Hostilities, he said, had lasted too long and “created deep divisions”.
“As the nation now works to restore peace, the healing of those wounds must be a paramount political and spiritual priority,” he added.
Earlier, welcoming the pope, Suu Kyi praised the Catholic Christian population in Myanmar for their compassion and generosity and said that they were “always ready to hold out a helping hand to those in need”.
“Your Holiness, the children of your church in this country are also the children of Myanmar,” Suu Kyi added. “We thank them as we thank you for praying for our nation and all the peoples of the world.”
Though she did not mention the Rohingya people, she accepted that the situation in the Rakhine state, which has faced violence since August, had “eroded [the] trust and understanding, harmony and cooperation between different communities”, BBC reported.