In his meeting with the country’s authorities, Francis did not explicitly name the Rohingya, which the former would have not welcomed; however, much of his speech touched issues that concern them. “The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity,” said the pope.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis on Tuesday met Myanmar authorities, civil society groups, and the diplomatic corps at the Myanmar International Convention Center di Nay Pyi Taw.
In his address, which followed that of President Htin Kyaw (pictured), the pontiff expressed hope that the country will be able to build its future on the basis of peace and respect for the dignity and rights of each ethnic group, "none excluded", and the coexistence of different faiths as well as on the education of its young, not only in the technical fields but also in terms of ethical values.
The pope did not explicitly name the Rohingya, which would have been unwelcomed by the authorities, but dedicated much of his remarks to issues that concern their fate.
In her greetings, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, who welcomed Francis as State Councillor and Foreign Minister, did not mention them either, but did refer to the “situation in the Rakhine”.
“As we address long standing issues, social, economic and political, that have eroded trust and understanding, harmony and cooperation, between different communities, [. . .] the aim of our Government [is] to bring out the beauty of our diversity and to make it our strength, by protecting rights, fostering tolerance, ensuring security for all.”
Francis, who was also greeted by children from different ethnic groups in their traditional dress, mentioned the establishment of diplomatic relations between Myanmar and the Holy See. “I would like to see this decision as a sign of the nation’s commitment to pursuing dialogue and constructive cooperation within the greater international community, even as it strives to renew the fabric of civil society.”
“I would also like my visit to embrace the entire population of Myanmar and to offer a word of encouragement to all those who are working to build a just, reconciled and inclusive social order. Myanmar has been blessed with great natural beauty and resources, yet its greatest treasure is its people, who have suffered greatly, and continue to suffer, from civil conflict and hostilities that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions. As the nation now works to restore peace, the healing of those wounds must be a paramount political and spiritual priority. I can only express appreciation for the efforts of the Government to take up this challenge, especially through the Panglong Peace Conference, which brings together representatives of the various groups in an attempt to end violence, to build trust and to ensure respect for the rights of all who call this land their home.”
“Indeed, the arduous process of peacebuilding and national reconciliation can only advance through a commitment to justice and respect for human rights. [. . .] The future of Myanmar must be peace, a peace based on respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity, respect for the rule of law, and respect for a democratic order that enables each individual and every group – none excluded – to offer its legitimate contribution to the common good.”
As part of the great work of national reconciliation and integration, “Myanmar’s religious communities have a privileged role to play. Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance and wise nation-building. The religions can play a significant role in repairing the emotional, spiritual and psychological wounds of those who have suffered in the years of conflict. Drawing on deeply-held values, they can help to uproot the causes of conflict, build bridges of dialogue, seek justice and be a prophetic voice for all who suffer. It is a great sign of hope that leaders of the various religious traditions in this country are making efforts to work together, in a spirit of harmony and mutual respect, for peace, for helping the poor and for educating in authentic religious and human values. In seeking to build a culture of encounter and solidarity, they contribute to the common good and to laying the indispensable moral foundations for a future of hope and prosperity for coming generations.”
“The young are a gift to be cherished and encouraged, an investment that will yield a rich return if only they are given real opportunities for employment and quality education.” However, educating the young should not focus only on “technical fields, but above all in the ethical values of honesty, integrity and human solidarity that can ensure the consolidation of democracy and the growth of unity and peace at every level of society. Intergenerational justice likewise demands that future generations inherit a natural environment unspoilt by human greed and depredation. It is essential that our young not be robbed of hope and of the chance to employ their idealism and talents in shaping the future of their country and, indeed, our entire human family.”
The Holy Father ended his address turning to “the nation’s small but fervent Catholic community,” to which his visit is dedicated first and foremost. His visit is meant to encourage them “to persevere in their faith and to continue to express its message of reconciliation and brotherhood through charitable and humanitarian works that benefit society as a whole. It is my hope that, in respectful cooperation with the followers of other religions, and all men and women of good will, they will help to open a new era of concord and progress for the people of this beloved nation.”