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Charity hopes pope will pay surprise visit to Rohingya refugee camps

Europe
24.11.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Rome (dpe) - Pope Francis should pay an impromptu visit to Rohingya refugees during his upcoming visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh, the director of a European charity working on the crisis said Friday.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August. Francis is scheduled to tour both countries, but his official agenda does not include stops in refugee camps.

"The reason is maybe a security concern. But I still hope that he will surprise us and decides to come. He is a pope that likes surprises," Regina Catrambone of the MOAS charity told dpa.

Francis will be in Myanmar from Monday through Thursday, and will be in Bangladesh November 30 to December 2, embarking on a trip fraught with diplomatic minefields.

The pontiff is expected to speak up for the suffering Muslim minority, but the Catholic Church in Myanmar has urged him not to use the word "Rohingya" to avoid upsetting local sensitivities.

Many in Myanmar, including the government, refer to the minority group as "Bengali" to infer they are interlopers from Bangladesh, and dispute UN claims that they are being persecuted by the army.

"To change the situation it is very difficult, but shining a light is another thing - that is possible. And I hope he will bring mercy to the hearts of the [Myanmar] military," Catrambone said.

MOAS, established in Malta, started out as a naval rescue mission for migrants in the Mediterranean. In September, it shifted operations to Bangladesh, where it runs two first aid stations in Rohingya camps.

 

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