Dhaka – Pope Francis is likely to meet a small group of persecuted Rohingya Muslims as he is scheduled to arrive in Bangladesh later this week, a leader of Catholic community in Dhaka said Monday.
The pontiff on Monday began a six-day visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh. He landed in the Myanmar’s important city of Yangon on the first leg of his visit to Asia.
“Efforts are on to secure official permission and assistance so that a small group of Rohingya could meet the Pope in Dhaka,” Archbishop Patrick D Rosario told reporters at a news conference organised on the occasion of the Papal visit to the Muslim-majority country.
He said the visit was organised long before the Rohingya crisis unfolded between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“We have been trying to bring a small group of Rohingya to meet the pontiff in Dhaka since it is not possible, at this point, to arrange a Papal trip to the refugees,” added the Archbishop.
“We are almost done with the process,” he said about the process of securing permission from the government.
The focus of the Papal visit in Myanmar is on whether the Pope uses “Rohingya” to describe Muslim minority in the South East Asian country as officials warned that such utterance would cause a serious consequence in Myanmar.
An estimated 624,000 of them crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar army launched anti-insurgency crackdown in restive Rakhine state on August 25. The United Nations and the human rights groups have accused Myanmar army of launching ethnic cleansing against the minority Muslims.
Myanmar officials reject the term ‘Rohingya’ fearing that it could spark violence if the Pope does so. Myanmar stripped off the citizenship of the minority groups in the 1980s branding them “illegal migrants from Bangladesh”
But, the Archbishop in Bangladesh said the Pope earlier termed the persecuted Rohingya Muslims as ‘brothers and sisters’ when Vatican issued a statement to condemn the persecution in Myanmar.
“It is important to him (Pope) to talk to the oppressed,” he added.
Scheduled to arrive in Dhaka on Thursday, Pope Francis is expected to address a gathering of nearly 80,000 people at Suhrawardy Udyan Park in central Dhaka on Friday, Rosario said.
He is scheduled separately to meet with President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and members of the civil society and diplomatic corps during his stay in Bangladesh. He will pay ceremonial homage to Bangladesh’s National Mausoleum in Savar to the memories of the country’s liberation heroes.
He is also scheduled to visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi where Bangladesh’s founding president and independence architect used to live and was assassinated by a group of disgruntled army officers on August 15, 1975.