The answer in majority-Buddhist Burma hinges on one controversial word: Rohingya.
Pope Francis landed in Myanmar on Monday to start his six-day visit to Southeast Asia, raising the hopes of Christians there that he will address the issues they face in the majority-Buddhist nation formerly known as Burma.
Among those welcoming the pontiff in Yangon were more than 7,000 ethnic Kachin from the conflict-torn state in northern Myanmar, who had travelled down for the occasion, according to Catholic news agency UCAN.
The predominantly Christian Kachin, together with the Karen ethnic minority, live in conflict zones along the country’s borders and have faced years of government oppression.
John Hong Khong, from Kachin, told UCAN they expected “to get peace through the Pope’s visit as we believe he will raise peace issues and push the country’s leaders for ending ethnic conflicts.”
Leading up to the visit, Myanmar’s Catholic Cardinal Bo said he hoped Pope Francis’ trip would “help heal the wounds of his country, especially for minorities under attack,” adding that the “Rohingya situation is a great tragedy [but] the country needs healing on various fronts.”
During his three days in Myanmar, the Pope will visit the current and former capitals, Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon, and meet, among others, the country’s leader—in all but title—Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel Prize winner has come under pressure in recent months because of her handling of the Rohingya crisis. Since August more than 600,000 people belonging to the Rohingya Muslim minority have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh following attacks by the army which, according to the UN, amount to “ethnic cleansing”. The Pope is also due to visit Muslim-majority Bangladesh during this …