Pope Francis on Friday referred to Rohingyas by their ethnic name publically for the first time during his Asia tour in Bangladesh as he met a group of refugees who fled Myanmar to escape persecution by the country’s military and apologised for the “indifference” of the world towards them.
Over 620,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh following a crackdown by the Myanmar military in response to attacks on security forces by Rohingya militants.
“The presence of God today is also called Rohingya,” the the 80-year-old pontiff said.
He also apologised for the “indifference” of the world towards Asia’s worst refugee crisis in decades.
“I ask for your forgiveness for the indifference of the world,” Francis told a group of Rohingyas at the archbishop’s palace in Dhaka.
“Let us not turn away” from it, he further said.
An interfaith peace prayer alongside Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and other Christian leaders was held at the archbishop’s residence.
This is the first time Francis used the term “Rohingya” during his South Asia tour.
The Pope had been criticised by rights groups for not using the term in Myanmar, whose military has been accused of ethnic cleansing by the UN. He had used the term before his visit.
Myanmar’s government rejects the term Rohingya, labelling the community “Bengalis”. It says they migrated illegally from Bangladesh so should not be listed as one of the country’s ethnic groups.