Alwaght- Pope Francis is set to visit Myanmar in November as the Buddhist country's military is widely blamed for committing ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslim minority.
According to a full program of the Nov. 6-Dec. 2 trip released by the Vatican on Tuesday, the Pope will visit top Buddhist monks, military generals, and the county's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Reuters reported.
The trip motto is peace and love among people of different faiths.
Being the first pope to visit Myanmar, Francis is expected to address the Rohingyas' plight as he already issued a strong defense of the right of the Muslim minority to ‘live their faith’, and criticized the country’s regime for campaign of persecution.
In a stinging attack on the Myanmarese regime in February, the Pope said the Rohingyas have been tortured and killed “simply because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith”.
Rohingya crisis erupted on 25 August, when Myanmar’s army backed by gangs of Buddhist extremists brutally attacked Muslims in Rakhine state on the pretext of responding to the killing of security forces. In the ensuing operation, over 6,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed in what is clearly an organized campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The military operations have also sent more than 520,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh, where Pope Francis will also visit after his Myanmar tour.
The pope will say two Masses in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and one in Bangladesh, which is predominantly Muslim.
The pope arrives in Yangon, the country’s largest city, on Nov. 27 after a flight of more than 10 hours and is scheduled to rest for about 24 hours before heading to the country’s capital Naypyitaw for a day.
There, he will have separate private talks with President Htin Kyaw and Suu Kyi, who is both State Counsellor and Foreign Minister, making her effectively the country’s civilian leader.
A senior Vatican official said military leaders are expected to attend a separate, public meeting where the pope will address politicians and diplomats. This is where he is expected to give the keynote speech of the trip.
However, Pope Francis' itinerary makes no mention of a papal meeting with persecuted Rohingyas neither in Myanmar nor in Bangladesh.