Pope Francis uses ‘Rohingya’ to refer to refugees

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Pope Francis was speaking toRohingya refugees in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, grasping their hands and listening to their stories.

He apologized for the “indifference of the world” to their plight, telling the 12 men and four women that “the presence of God today is also called Rohingya.” It is the first time the pontiff has used the term in public on his current trip through Asia.

Pope Francis holds hand of Rohingya refugee (Reuters/D. Sagolj)

Pope Francis spoke to several Rohingya refugees in Dhaka

Read more: ‘Apartheid’ in Myanmar says Amnesty

He blessed one little girl, placing his hand on her head, and grasped the shoulder of a young man.

The Rohingya traveled to Dhaka from Cox’s Bazar, the district bordering Myanmar where refugee camps are overflowing with more than 620,000 Rohingya who have fled what the UN says is a campaign of ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s military.

Myanmar does not recognize Rohingya as an ethnic group and calls them “Bengalis.” Pope Francis had refrained from using the term while in Myanmar earlier in the week.

Pope Francis in rickshaw (Reuters/M. Rossi)

Pope Francis ditched his pope mobile for a rickshaw

There, the leader of the Catholic Church had called on Buddhist monks in Myanmar to conquer “prejudice and hatred” and urged “respect for each ethnic group and its identity.” 

Read more: Pope pushes Catholic Church towwards inter-faith dialogue

Earlier on Friday, the Argentine born Jorge Mario Bergoglio presided over inter-faith prayers at the residence of Dhaka’s archbishop. To get there, he traded his bullet-proof “pope mobile” for a rickshaw, a popular mode of transport in Bangladesh.

ng/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)