Pope Francis delivered a speech defending the right of Burma’s Rohingya Muslims to “live their faith”, and criticised the country’s government for carrying out a campaign of religious persecution.
In a strongly-worded condemnation of the Burmese regime, the Pope said the Rohingyas have been tortured and killed “simply because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith”.
The head of Roman Catholicism made his comments during his weekly address.
He seemed to be referring to a UN rights office “flash report”, issued last week, which described allegations of torture, rape and murder of Rohingyas at the hands of the Burmese military.
The Rohingyas were “good people”, Pope Francis said. “They are not Christians, they are peaceful people, and they are our brothers and sisters.”
He then urged the 7,000 people present in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall to join him in prayer for all refugees who have been oppressed, particularly the Rohingyas who, he said, “are being chased from Myanmar and are fleeing from one place to another because no one wants them”.
The Burmese regime is restricting access to Rakhine state where the persecution of Rohingyas is taking place.
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But the UN has previously described the Rohingyas, who are also denied access to university education, and in 2013 were hit with a two-child policy, as “the most oppressed people on Earth”.
In his Wednesday address, Pope Francis also repeated his plea for people to “build bridges of understanding instead of walls”.
The comments appeared to be an indirect response to the Trump administration’s travel ban on people from seven Muslim countries.