The Pope And The ‘R’ Word (VIDEO

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Pope Francis meets a group of Rohingya refugees during an inter-religious conference at St Mary’s Cathedral in Dhaka December 1, 2017. — Reuters picPope Francis meets a group of Rohingya refugees during an inter-religious conference at St Mary’s Cathedral in Dhaka December 1, 2017. — Reuters picDHAKA, Dec 4 — Pope Francis has defended his strategy of avoiding the term ‘Rohingya’ in public in Myanmar.

He urged respect for, quote, “each ethnic group and its identity” during a speech in the southeast Asia country last week but avoided a diplomatic backlash by not using the highly-charged word.

He told reporters on board the papal plane on Saturday (December 2) he wanted to speak to both civilian and military leadership without shutting down dialogue.

“I was interested in my message getting through. So I saw that in my speech if I had used that word the door would have slammed shut,” he said.

Pope Francis’ trip was so delicate local church officials had advised him not to say Rohingyabecause it could spark a backlash against Christians and other minority groups.

Instead, he strongly hinted he had used the word in private meetings.

The predominantly Buddhist country doesn’t recognize the mostly Muslim Rohingya as an ethnic group with its own identity, but as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

A violent military crackdown in Myanmar has seen a mass exodus of more than 620-thousandRohingya. Refugees say scores of their villages were burnt to the ground, people were killed and women raped, but the military denies accusations of ethnic cleansing.

Pope Francis has defended the Rohingya by name twice from the Vatican earlier this year but waited until he had left Myanmar and arrived in Bangladesh before using the term for the first time in Asia on Friday (December 1).

Francis ended his diplomatically tricky trip seeking the forgiveness of Rohingya refugees. — Reuters 

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