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With Pope Francis due to visit Burma and Bangladesh next month, a Christian leader from the latter has said he is expecting the Catholic pontiff to urge leaders of the two countries, and the world, to view both Buddhists and Muslims simply as human beings.
The Pope’s itinerary for the visit was released on Tuesday, as a Rohingya Muslim refugee crisis continued to grow along Burma and Bangladesh’s shared border this week.
Joyanta Adhikari, president of Bangladesh’s National Council of Christians, told DVB on Thursday: “We should look at those people as human beings. This is how we can live together in a peaceful manner. That is the message we expect from him; all the people, hands together, making this world a better place to live.”
During his visit next month, Pope Francis will meet with Burma’s President Htin Kyaw and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as prominent Buddhist monks and military leaders. According to the Rangoon Archdiocese, the Pope will also deliver a public speech at Rangoon’s Kyeikkasan Stadium on 29 November, with tens of thousands expected to attend.
The Pope will arrive in Burma on 27 November, and depart for Bangladesh on 30 November, according to an itinerary released by the Vatican this week.
Hundreds of bishops, pastors and Christian laypeople from across the continent are attending the Christian Conference of Asia this week, which this year is being hosted by Burma. The conference will highlight and offer prayers for those affected by the latest violence to plague Arakan, which has involved Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu communities in the state’s north.
Mathews George Chunakara, general-secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, told DVB on Thursday that participants would not delve into Burma’s thorny politics, but would nonetheless offer prayers with the current circumstances in mind.
“Prayer for interfaith harmony, religious freedom, peace and moving beyond conflicts. It is part of the worship sessions,” he said.
“Every country has their own internal issues and internal politics and internal dynamics. So international delegates coming especially for a mission conference like this, they’ll not discuss all those things as part of [it]; especially if the local host is not comfortable to speak on these things,” Chunakara told DVB.
“Our position is that we should not bring unnecessary controversy as part of our discussions.”