CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 November 2017

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A no no word for pope

YANGON (UCAN): The upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the Union of Myanmar and Bangladesh has sparked fears and hopes in both countries.
 
In Yangon, the bishops of Myanmar fear that he will mention the injustices faced by the Rohingya people over attempts to drive them from the country, while leaders of the Islamic faith hope that he will, at least in his articulated prayer.
 
Similarly in Dhaka, some hope that he will be outspoken about the refusal of the government to accept them, while others fear the consequences that may befall the Church if he does.
 
The bishops in Myanmar have gone as far as suggesting to Pope Francis that Rohingya should remain a no no word.
 
“We just gave suggestions that the word Rohingya remain a sensitive issue in the country and it is better not to use it during his visit,” Archbishop Alexander Pyone Cho, from Pyay, whose diocese includes the Rakhine State, said.
 
Discontent expressed on social media broke out when news that the pope would visit Myanmar ahead of Bangladesh was leaked some weeks ago.
 
The term Rohingya, with which the people self-identify, has become a sensitive issue. The government and military—along with many Myanmese—refer to them as Bengalis, as they claim they hail from Bangladesh.
 
Catholics have also voiced their concerns online, saying, “We pray that the pope will not use the word Rohingya… It is better not to use Rohingya than raise the Rakhine issue… Church leaders should suggest to the pope not to use Rohingya.”
 
However, the secretary of the Islamic Religious Affairs Council, Wunna Shwe, said that he welcomes the pope’s visit and hopes that he will mention the Muslim group, especially in his prayer.
 
“As a religious leader, Pope Francis can use Rohingya in his prayers in Myanmar as this is not an attempt to interfere with another country’s politics,” Shwe said, adding that his visit could accelerate harmony and dialogue among the country’s different faiths.
 
A Buddhist monk, Ashin Thuriya, said, “I have no concerns over whether the pope will talk about the Rakhine issue as I understand that the Catholic leader already understands the reality of Myanmar.”
 
However, Bishop Pyone maintains that the pope is coming to Myanmar to visit everyone and his trip is not only for the Rohingya people.
 
But on a different tack, Kyaw Min, from the Democracy and Human Rights Party, said it should be left up to Pope Francis to decide what he does and he does not see any problem in bringing up the issue in talks with government leaders.

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