Photo: Ed Jones, Agence France-Presse
Some 900 000 Rohingyas of Myanmar are crammed into the biggest refugee camp in the world, in Bangladesh.
Rome — pope Francis began Sunday evening on his 21st trip, which should be the lead in the Myanmar buddhist and the Bangladesh muslim, two asian countries marked by strong religious tensions and in the spotlight with the forced exodus of the Rohingya.
The plane carrying the pontiff, aged 80 years, departed Sunday from Rome and has to land Monday around 13: 30 (local time) in Yangon, the economic capital of Myanmar.
“I ask you to accompany me with prayer so that my presence is for these people a sign of closeness and of hope,” the pope said Sunday afternoon in front of the 30,000 faithful gathered in St. Peter’s square in Rome for the prayer of the angelus.
In Myanmar, pope Francis is highly anticipated on the tragedy experienced by the muslim minority of Rohingya, a victim of “ethnic cleansing” according to the UN and Washington.
Some 900 000 Rohingyas of Myanmar are crammed into the biggest refugee camp in the world, in the south of Bangladesh, of which 620 000 arrived since the end of August to escape the violence of the soldiers.
A few days of the visit, the Myanmar and Bangladesh have announced an agreement on the return of refugees the rohingya, which certainly helps the diplomatic task to Jorge Bergoglio, the real name of the sovereign pontiff.
The pope should meet with the winner of the Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the civil government, and, more discreetly, the head of the army myanmaraise, general Min Aung Hlaing.
Prevent-t-he to pronounce the word ” Rohingya “, a taboo in Myanmar, as the committee recommends that the local Church, distraught at the idea that he could stir up the anger of extremist buddhists ?
Francis is the first pope to visit Myanmar, where some 200,000 people are expected at an open-air mass in Yangon, time for the tiny catholic minority (660 000 or 1.2 % of the population).
The pope will then leave on Thursday for Bangladesh, which has already received Paul VI in 1970 and pope John Paul II in 1986, but where catholics are fewer still. They are 375 000, which accounts for 0.24 % of the population.
In Dhaka, the capital, Francis has slipped in its schedule a meeting with a group of refugee rohingyas.
The spiritual leader of 1.3 billion catholics wished to encourage the two small Churches of the ” peripheries “, an exercise that he likes, at the risk of angering countries predominantly catholic, waiting his visit.
Francis attaches great importance to the development in Asia of catholicism, which only gathers 3 % of the population, but is experiencing a significant growth (9% increase between 2010 and 2015). He has already visited South Korea, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.
And the Vatican, who comes to establish diplomatic relations with Myanmar, is also negotiating with small steps for a rapprochement with Vietnam and China communists.