Pope Francis offers prayer for Rohingya, asks for forgiveness for world’s indifference

Photo by Handout/Getty Images(DHAKA, Bangladesh) — Pope Francis met on Friday with a group of Rohingya refugees during a trip to Bangaldesh, offering prayers and asking for forgiveness for the world’s indifference to the ongoing military crackdown in Myanmar.

The pope greeted fifteen Rohingya Muslims separately during a public gathering for religious groups. He gave a speech highlighting the importance of religious tolerance, before taking a moment to pray.

“Your tragedy is very hard, very big,” he said. “We give you space in our hearts. In the name of everyone, of those who persecute you, those who hurt you, and especially of the world’s indifference, I ask for your forgiveness.”

Pope Francis said he had heard many of the the Rohingya Muslims talk about the “great heart of Bangladesh, which offered you refuge.”

The pope did not mention the Rohingya during a trip to Myanmar. Some of the refugees in Bangladesh, however, said that they felt it was important that he do so.

Afterwards, Pope Francis said “Let us not close our heart. Let’s not look away. The presence of God today is called Rohingya.”

Thousands of Rohingya Muslims, a minority group in Myanmar and considered among the most persecuted groups in the world, have fled Myanmar into refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh and India in recent months. They are hoping to escape government-sponsored violence in Myanmar and what they believe is certain death in a crisis that the United Nations secretary general has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

In just over two months, more than 600,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh, joining about 300,000 who were already living in camps there. Several hundred thousands are children, many of whom made the treacherous trek from Myanmar to Bangladesh walking for several days, often with no food.

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