Biggest Challenge for Pope Francis as He Arrives at Myanmar

Published 01 December 2017  |  
AP
Pope Francis is greeted by young children in traditional clothes upon his arrival at Yangon's airport, Myanmar, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. The pontiff is in Myanmar for the first stage of a week-long visit that will also take him to neighboring Bangladesh.

Pope Francis has arrived at Myanmar, the country widely accused of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, and has met with Myanmar's military chief, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, who has denied any "religious discrimination" in a military campaign in Rakhine state.

Observers at the Buddhist-majority country described Pope's visit as a political minefield, and his biggest diplomatic challenge to date, as they are watching how he responds to the crisis.

The persecuted minorities, particularly the Rohingya Muslims, and also Christians, will be on his mind during the Nov. 27 to 30 visit.

Prior to his arrival, Francis gave a video message, in which he said, "I come to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a message of reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace," he stated in "a word of friendship and greeting to all the people" of Myanmar.

During his visit, he will also meet de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Nov. 30, he will move on to Bangladesh to meet a small group of Rohingya refugees.

Over 600,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since August when deadly attacks on police force by Rohingya militants promoted a military attack in Rakhine state.

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