Pakistani demonstrators burn effigies of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against the Myanmar government over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims, in Karachi on Sept. 13. (Photo by Rizwan Tabassum/AFP)
Pakistani Catholic bishops are pleading with the de facto leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, to protect the minority Rohingya Muslim community. The latest estimates from the United Nations suggest about 370,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks. According to the United Nations, most of the refugees are vulnerable women, including pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as children and the elderly. In a media statement, Pakistan's bishops condemned the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar. They noted that Pope Francis, during his Aug. 27 Sunday Angelus address, stated that he was following the "sad news" of this persecution.
The pope asked that Rohingya in Myanmar be given full citizenship rights. The president of Pakistani Catholic bishops' conference, Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, and Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, "strongly condemned" attacks on the Rohingya. They pleaded for State Counselor Suu Kyi to ensure full rights for Rohingya in her nation. They also appealed for Myanmar to cease all military operations in northern Rakhine State, where there is a large Rohingya population. The bishops said the approximately 1,300 deaths as a result of "ethnic cleansing" constitute tyranny. Further, the bishops called on the international community, in particular the government of Pakistan, to initiate dialogue with Myanmar to allow humanitarian organizations access to the affected community. "The Catholic Church in Pakistan stands strong with Rohingya people and extend prayers for their safety and wellbeing, hoping that a peaceful solution will be found soon," the bishops' statement concluded. Meanwhile, thousands of people staged a rally in the southern Pakistani port city of Karachi to condemn what they called the "genocide" of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
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