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Rome Reports

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Pope leaves this Sunday for intricate trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh

This Sunday, Pope Francis begins a diplomatically intricate journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh, the scene of one of the largest refugee crises on the planet, affecting the Rohingya.

It is a Muslim minority who has settled for generations in Myanmar, a country with a Buddhist majority. They are not even recognized as citizens and, in recent months, their persecution has led to a mass exodus. The UN estimates that more than half a million are already in Bangladesh and there are more Rohingya who are outside Myanmar, than inside the country.

POPE FRANCIS
"I am coming to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace." 

The pope's visit is expected to help curb the violence. Pope Francis will remain in Myanmar from Monday, 27 until Thursday, 30. Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke, confirmed the pope has changed his agenda to meet with military head, General Min Aung Hlaing. He is in charge of operations in Rakhine, where most Rohingya are from. The meeting will take place thanks to the mediation of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo.

Pope Francis will once again meet with with Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the first State Counsellor and Union Minister for Foreign Affairs. Her silence before the Rohingya crisis has been interpreted with ambiguity. Those who defend her say her hands are tied, but she is secretly working for peace. On the other hand, many criticize her for not raising her voice and denouncing what the UN and other Nobel Peace Prize laureates call a “genocide.”

MUHAMMAD YUNUS
Nobel Peace Laureate

"All the Rohingyas are being pushed out, they are being killed. Call it genocide, call it a textbook case of ethnic cleansing."

Muhammad Yunus is from Bangladesh, a country that Pope Francis will visit Thursday, November 30 to Saturday, December 2. There the pope will meet with a small group of Rohingya Muslims.

During this trip, in addition to official meetings with civil and religious authorities, the pope will pay close attention to encounters with Buddhists and Muslims.

The first make up the majority in Myanmar and the second in Bangladesh. In both countries, Catholics are a minority, just over one percent in Myanmar and 0.25 percent in Bangladesh.