Pope urges Aung San Suu Kyi to respect 'each ethnic group' in Burma

Pope Francis has met Burma's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and told her the country's future depends on respecting the rights of "each ethnic group".

It was an indirect show of support for Rohingya Muslims who have been subject to decades of state-supported discrimination and recently a violent military crackdown in Burma.

Francis did not cite the crackdown or even say the contested word "Rohingya" in his speech to Ms Suu Kyi, but he lamented how Burma's people have suffered "and continue to suffer from civil conflict and hostilities", and insisted that everyone who calls Burma home deserves to have basic rights guaranteed.

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He said Burma's future must be based on "respect for the dignity and rights of each member of society, respect for each ethnic group and its identity".

Ms Suu Kyi thanked Francis for his support for what she said are the many "challenges" the country is facing, taking his visit as a sign of encouragement as she faces international criticism for the military crackdown on the Rohingya.

In a speech to Francis and Burmese diplomats, she did not refer to the more than 620,000 Rohingya who have been driven out of Rakhine to Bangladesh after the military began what it called "clearance operations" following militant attacks in August.

She said she appreciates those who are supporting the government as it address long-standing social, economic and political issues "that have eroded trust and understanding, harmony and co-operation".

She added that the government's aim is to protect rights, foster tolerance and ensure security for all.


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