Rohingya refugees in Myanmar

Myanmar is currently in the throes of a bloody refugee crisis making international headlines — and sparking accusations of ethnic cleansing.


Pope Francis has completed a visit to Myanmar, though not without severely damaging his image as a peacemaker. Interesting enough, it’s not what he said — but what he didn’t say — that has sparked backlash from humanitarian groups worldwide.

Myanmar is currently in the throes of a bloody refugee crisis making international headlines — and sparking accusations of ethnic cleansing. Over the past few months, Buddhist nationals have been taking over areas of the country occupied by a minority Muslim population known as the Rohingya. The government insists that the Rohingya people are  being relocated because they pose a risk to national security, and that any violence that may have occurred was instigated by them. However, eyewitnesses have reported villages burned to the ground, mass killings, murdered children, and gang rape, among other disturbing crimes.

While Pope Francis spoke generally of peace during his visit, he failed to mention the Rohingya people by name — a glaring omission that drew scathing criticism from many human rights groups. If you won’t stand up for the persecuted, they ask, how dare you call yourself a peacemaker?

A map of MyanmarWho Are the Rohingya?

The Rohingya are a stateless people from Rakhine State, Myanmar. The Myanmar government does not recognize the people as citizens, even though their regional heritage can be traced back to the eighth century. According to the United Nations, the group is the most persecuted in the world. The Rohingya people cannot hold civil jobs, cannot move freely within the country nor can they enroll in schools. Human rights activists compare the plight of the Rohingya to that of the apartheid in South Africa. Legally, the Rohingya have no home. They face many legal hurdles just to get health care.

The United Nations’ top human rights official scoffed at the government’s story, accusing Myanmar of carrying out “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against the Rohingya people. Hundreds of thousands have fled to neighboring Bangladesh and other countries.

A Complicit Government

Although the Rohingya have been the target of persecution for decades, the latest escalation in government-sanctioned violence is unprecedented. Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize and de facto head of Myanmar’s government, has failed to address the situation. After her refusal to help the Rohingya people, many critics have called on the Nobel Prize Committee to revoke her prestigious award. As of yet, however, the committee has yet to act.

Pope Francis speaking in MyanmarThe Pope’s Visit

In his speech, Pope Francis spoke in generic terms about unity, never mentioning the government’s treatment of the Rohingya directly. “The arduous process of peace building and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights,” Francis said.

By not saying “Rohingya” aloud, critics point out, it’s as if the pope has taken away the last thing this persecuted group has: their name. In the eyes of many, this cost Pope Francis his moral credibility. However, others argue that Francis was simply trying to avoid confrontation in order that the country might hear his message.

Turning a Blind Eye

But did the pope’s message really resonate? Gen. Min Aung Hiaing, Myanmar’s military leader, continues to deny the atrocities taking place under his nose. He told reporters that there is no such thing as religious discrimination in Myanmar. Earlier this year, national media reported that it was actually the Rohingya who burned down their own homes, squashing any reports of military involvement. Despite protestations, human rights investigators have not been allowed in certain areas in the country.

Should Pope Francis have taken a stand and mentioned the Rohingya by name in his speech to the Myanmar people?

 

Update: Pope Francis did choose to use the word “Rohingya” a few days later, during a meeting with members of the Muslim minority in Bangladesh. He apologized to the Rohingya for the “indifference of the world” toward their plight. 

 

30 comments

  1. Clifford says:

    Why name them in separation? But rather should point out that we are all human beings.

    1. Diane M Baum says:

      🙂 yes indeed. When we add labels, there is always the chance we “miss” someone…that someone will feel left out. We are all one in Christ…the Pope represents Jesus on earth. That is what should be focused on: peace for all by all.

  2. James says:

    None of our business. We have invaders, criminals, terrorists, crazies, mentally Ill, and traitors of our own. We need to clean up our own house first.

    1. Clayton Beardmore says:

      What we REALLY need to do is take care of things at home before we start butting into other people’s business.

      1. Robert Knight says:

        Before we start butting into other people’s business? When have we ever not butted into other people’s business?

    2. Carl Elfstrom says:

      People are people it’s plain to see. We are all children of the same universe. I haven’t heard of any ULC ministers going to Myanmar. And I won’t be the first. I’d be scared shirtless to go over there. At least the pope tried to help. He didn’t say all the right things ( which is typical of Catholic clergy ),but at least he tried.

      1. Diane M Baum says:

        The pope is not some Superman, yet he- Pope Francis- as well as John Paul 2 when he was pope, were able to go to countries that a lesser person would have killed in…and made it out alive. That speaks volumes right there.

  3. Zea Weis says:

    There are two sides to every story. But why name anyone or point out any group? It would be like taking sides. I’m not the fondist of the pope. Religion as created a lot of division and the group that he did not mention are Muslim??? I don’t think he would of been there.

    1. Diane M Baum says:

      Pope John Paul 2 brought about the biggest change to peace in Europe just by being a presence of peace there. That change swept through Poland initially, then onward, causing our own President Ronald Reagan to appeal to President Gorbachev of Russia, “Tear down this wall!” in reference to the Berlin Wall. The Iron Curtain officially fell at that point. Does peace reign there now? It depends on whose perspective you see it from. People will never be truly free of the bonds of oppression until they treat other humans with love and respect. Can that or will that ever be achieved? Again, when people understand this, yes, I do believe it can be.

  4. John Smithkey says:

    So far, most of the posts agree on two main points. First, there are two sides to every story, as Zea Weis stated. And two, take care of our our business, as James and Clayton stated. I feel the Pope handled the problem well. If he mentioned the crisis by name, it might have had the effect of ” putting out a fire with gasoline”!! John Smithkey III RN BSN

    1. Diane M Baum says:

      Yes, indeed. One cannot be a bearer of light and love if one is calling out certain groups, casting stones, as it were. Hopefully by his example, the tide will turn. People can bring about peace…but only because it is they who want it.

  5. Diane M Baum says:

    What we all must remember is this: the pope represents Jesus on earth. During the time of Jesus, the Romans were at the height of their empire. The penalty for even looking at the leader of Rome in a negative light resulted in crucifixion. Jesus did NOT speak out against the atrocities that Rome was doing, in fact, when questioned about paying tax to the Romans, His response was to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God, what is God’s.” very succinct without casting a stone at the government that was causing so much persecution even then. Now realize, this was the Son of God. At any point, He could have called all of the armies of heaven down to quash the pain and hatred, but …He did not. The pope today is in the same place: he can call out certain groups that are causing hatred and pain, but chooses not to. It is not some “sin” that the media perpetrates upon him. It is rather this: why create even MORE division…instead…build a bridge…a path to peace. Bridges that are solidly constructed can last forever. The best way to build a solid bridge is to allow people their free will…in the hopes that they will see their own errors by the good he has left behind. Remember too, that Jesus said His government is NOT of this world…and that still is true today. The Catholic Church should be an instrument of peace- and Pope Francis is emulating what his namesake did. St Francis of Assisi left his past of being a soldier and instead, showed the world that peace can only be attained by being an example of love and compassion. One cannot be that if one is taking a side. We are all God’s children.
    On that note, I leave you all with peace…in your hearts, your words, your mind and soul.

  6. Phill Salzman says:

    The Pope had to walk a fine line here. He wants peace and unity for all people, yet he could cause great conflict by using inflammatory words. He actually did a pretty good job. He got his point across without getting a lot of people riled up. It is tempting to try to “help” some people, but past experience has showed us that we must be careful doing this. Too many times we have tried to “help” only to make the situation much worse. Look at how many countries we have our military in. We are not that good at this “helping” business.
    Phill

  7. Chuck says:

    Something needs to be understood here….

    This “Pope” is a New World Order Pope. What that means, is he was put in place to promote globalism (world dictatorship). You need only Google “New World Order Pope” to figure that out yourself.

    He is a Jesuit, and the first ever Jesuit Pope. Jesuits were always forbidden from being pope due to their lack of morality….Jesuits are the military arm of the church.

    One tool globalism uses to destabilize the world is destabilizing nations so that they conform, by losing their identity. This is done by flooding nations with “refugees” that are the polar opposite of the nations they are being turned loose in. Examples are the Latino/Hispanic wave in America, Muslims in Europe, etc.

    So, he is watching what he says (for the moment) undoubtedly because there is some larger plan involved to use these people as pawns somehow, as they use all other refugee populations.

    But, what do you expect from a guy that pardons and condones pedophilia. Ill give you a hint…… Satanism uses pedophilia and homosexual sex as a ritual. Why do you think the Church is so into that, you say? Because the Church has nothing to do with Christ other than to defame him, and are nothing more than the continuation of Babylon.

    1. Ellis L Keyes says:

      The Anti Christ strategy is not of this world. For all who worship Jesus better look good on wood. The AntiChrist proposition, I set before you a choice and urge you to choose life, implies you can choose an alternative. It is a deceptive argument against the person , unnatural.
      Threat of force arguments targeting free will present a false worldview that we torture all and murdered one, so if you believe we will let you live, exposing the criminal mode of operation. The argument is against God, made imperfection and blasphemy. The church is the whore of Babylon, Christ unfaithful bride.

  8. Ann Wood says:

    YES, standing up for all people is the Pope’s official job. If he has failed miserably at the task, and the evidence shows that he has, then he should be fired. Of course, I know that this political organization that is the Roman Catholic Church is way too powerful to
    be concerned about its leaders failures – – – the not too bright public allows its celebrities to get away with everything. Look who we have for President in the United States.

  9. Linda Weeks says:

    I wish that this article had more information as to why this group was being held in such historical low regard. Do they condone and promote terrorusm against the country? Is it part of a caste system? Is it a historical sustain, and what is the basis for it? I will lresearch this myself. And yes, I believe the pope should have mentioned them by name. What is the saying? All that’s needed for evil to persist is for good people to do nothing.

    1. hsw says:

      Thank you. As I read most of the other comments, I was starting to lose hope that any of the posters actually care about anything outside of their own backyards.

      I have to laugh when someone says “take care of things at home.” You understand that the Pope doesn’t live in the US, right? His job is global, and his interests should be in standing up for those who cannot speak for themselves.

      I have to wonder how many of you would think differently if the persecuted group were Christian rather than Muslim?

      1. Chuck says:

        Christians are targeted on a regular basis in the Arab world. It goes unreported, or covered up. Not our media, not the Pope or anyone says boo about it.

        1. Keith Ainsworth says:

          They were not targetted in the Muslim country that I lived in, in fact, they were given land on which to build a church

      2. Keith Ainsworth says:

        He was concerned about his comments inciting persecution of catholic in the country, he commented when he visited Bangle Desh

  10. Carl Elfstrom says:

    At least the pope tried to help. Even though he didn’t say everything perfectly, who ever does? I hav’nt heard of any ULC ministers going to Myanmar, and I won’t be the first. I’m much too scared to do that, but my hat’s off to those who act on faith and try to make a difference in this world. People are people it’s plain to see.I can’t understand what makes a man hate a man. It doesn’t matter who or where they are, if you have a good heart you have to care. I don’t have any magic answers, but hope and pray that somebody will figure it out and act on faith to try to make a difference, without being ridiculed for it.

    1. Diane M Baum says:

      Beautifully said, Carl. I worry when the pope goes to these unstable countries. His life is surely on the line and yet, God allows free will of the people to reign. This is the Pope we are talking about. Bullets may not be deflected by heavenly hosts should they be fired. The pope uses his spirituality to bring the masses to God, just as saints of the past have done for many, many years. Use words of love and actions of peace….that is the shield by which nations have been changed. He is not and should not be expected to go to countries with the intent to change governments by words of legislation but rather, by deeds of love. Remember, God’s Kingdom is not of this earth!

  11. Hans Hartman says:

    Since we are all Gods’ children, we should love each other and have tolerance. But when you have a faction that is causing unrest, by or toward them, and the general population is apathetic toward their plight… better to relocate them for the safety of all.
    You cannot expect the world to embrace teachings of the peace of Christ, when their holy book denounces peace with other beliefs without a tribute or slavery.

  12. James says:

    All I could add to any of this is one simple thing. Look at each country by religion of the majority and is economic and quality of life. If point out the fact that Jesus living countries do pretty dang good. History shows that fact. Just an observation of history.

  13. Rick says:

    Islamic people need to stay in Islamic Nations and exercise their free will to be Muslims. Muslims have a duty and an obligation to convert everyone over to Islam or follow the Quran’s 109 verses and murder those that will not convert. People need to stop enabling that religion to destroy Christianity throughout the world.

  14. Bill Fox says:

    No. The Pope is not turning a blind eye. He has always been an advocate for the downtrodden.

  15. Rev. Ned says:

    The Pope, as CEO of the largest business in the world, tries to make the world a better place for everyone. He tries to do this without blatantly offending anyone, which blatantly offends a lot of people who are not happy, unless, they have something to be offended about.

  16. Brian H Davies JP. CMC. says:

    The problem is not so much as the Pope not condemming what is happening, rather the stony silence from the leaders of the Muslim faith. Christians see the world through the eyes of love, peace, and charity, whereas Islam views these as a weakness to be exploited, but north of Australia in West Irian once Dutch New Guinea is the systematic killing of wonderful native Papuans to the point of a genocide by a Muslim majority country, but where are your voices? Hundreds of wonderful missionaries and travellers have been reporting the massacre for over 40 years, but when a mostly military controlled Buddhist country overnight expels Muslims we hear outrage a plenty. Save your angst for West Papua. Make you voice louder, tell fellow believers of the crimes against human rites, Papuans who have no rights of freedom of speech, religion, or property, this is the storey that needs to shouted from every pulpit across every Christian Country. Give them a voice! Make Indonesia accountable throughout the lands!

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