Pope Francis wrapped up Asia tour after meeting Rohingya refugees

Vastavam web: Pope Francis wrapped up a high-stakes Asia tour today after meeting Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh in a highly symbolic gesture of solidarity with the Muslim minority fleeing violence in Myanmar.The Catholic leader flew out of Dhaka after visiting a hospital run by the order of Mother Theresa and addressing thousands of students on the final day of a visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar that has been dominated by the plight of the Rohingya.In Bangladesh he addressed the issue head-on, meeting a group of Rohingya refugees from the squalid camps in southern Bangladesh in an emotional encounter in Dhaka.
Among them was a 12-year-old girl who told him she had lost all her family in a Myanmar army attack on her village before fleeing across the border earlier this year.”Your tragedy is very hard, very great, but it has a place in our hearts,” he told them.”In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world’s indifference, I ask for your forgiveness.” He had faced criticism from some rights activists and refugees for failing to address the issue publicly.
He did not visit the refugee camps, where only a handful were aware that one of the world’s most high-profile leaders was championing their cause just around 500 kilometres away.One refugee expressed gratitude that the pope had finally uttered the word Rohingya, and said he believed the meeting would have a big impact.”It is the first time that a great world leader has listened to us,” 29-year-old Rohingya teacher Mohammad Zubair told AFP.More than 620,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since a militant attack on police posts in late August sparked a deadly crackdown by the Myanmar military.
They have given consistent accounts of mass rape, killings and villages deliberately burned to the ground by soldiers and Buddhist militia.The two countries last month signed an agreement to begin repatriating refugees, but rights groups say they are concerned about plans to house them in camps away from their former homes many of which have been destroyed.During his tour the pope led well-attended open-air masses in Bangladesh and Myanmar, which both have small Christian populations.Earlier he paid tribute to the works of Catholics in Bangladesh, where schools and clinics run by the church provide a lifeline for poor communities.