After meeting religious leaders in Dhaka, Pope Francis met some Rohingya refugees. For the first time in his trip, Francis used the word "Rohingya", asking for forgiveness for the indifference of the world towards them. AsiaNews spoke to some. "He is a man of peace. I hope that Allah listens to his prayers,” said one.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met a group of 16 Rohingya refugees yesterday at the end of the interfaith and ecumenical meeting held in the gardens of the Archbishopric of Dhaka. The pontiff asked for their forgiveness for the indifference of the world towards them and expressed great sympathy for their tragedy.
For the first time since his visit to Myanmar, he pontiff used the word "Rohingya". He had been advised not to use it in Myanmar to avoid causing more problems for them and for the country’s Christians.
Here is what Pope Francis told the Rakhine refugees: [L]et us make room in our heart. In the name of everyone, of those who persecute you, of those who have wronged you, above all for the indifference of the world, I ask your forgiveness. Forgiveness. So many of you have told me about the Bangladesh’s big heart that has welcomed you. Now I appeal to your big heart, that it can grant us the forgiveness we seek.
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Judaeo-Christian creation account says that the Lord who is God created man in his image and likeness. All of us are this image. These brothers and sisters of ours, as well. They too are an image of the living God. One of your religious traditions says that God, in the beginning, took some salt and cast it in the water that was the soul of all men and women. Each of us carries within himself a little of the divine salt. These brothers and sisters of ours carry within them the salt of God.
“Dear brothers and sisters, let us only make the world see what the world’s selfishness is doing with the image of God. Let us continue to do good for them, to help them. Let us continue to work actively for the recognition of their rights. Let us not close our hearts, or look the other way. The presence of God, today, is also called ‘Rohingya’. May each of us respond in his or her own way.
AsiaNews spoke to some of the refugees, who were moved by meeting the pontiff. All had a chance to speak with the Pope, mostly in tears. More than five thousand people were seated in front of them, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians.
Sawkat Ara (picture 2) is 12. "I told Pope Francis that the Myanmar army killed my father and mother and my five siblings. Now I'm alone,” she said. “The Pope placed his hands on my head, and expressed compassion towards me."
Mohmmon Nurulla knows the Qurʾān by heart. "The pope asked me what happened to me, and I told him about our persecuted people in Myanmar. Please help make peace in our country."
Nurulla noted that Pope Francis expressed his sympathy. "He said he will pray to God," he said. Convinced that the pontiff can help the Rohingya, he said, "He is a man of peace. I hope that Allah will listen to his prayers. We all prayed for our crisis ". Nurulla then led a prayer, and became very emotional.
A tearful Shyada Khaton said, "My husband was killed by the Myanmar army. I am helpless with my four children. I ate tree leaves when we escaped from Myanmar. We will never forget our suffering."
The Government of Bangladesh organised the meeting with the help of Caritas Bangladesh. The latter is helping the Rohingya. For the past two months it has fed seventy thousand Rohingya and recently it has started a hygiene and rehabilitation programme for them.