Pope Francis and Aung San Suu Kyi avoid Rohingya crisis discussion

Peace can only be achieved through "justice and a respect for human rights", he said in an speech that also called for "respect for each ethnic group and its identity". Refugees say the Myanmar's military has murdered children, raped women and razed villages. He said: "Religious differences need not be a source of division and distrust, but rather a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance, and wide nation-building".

The papal visit to Myanmar coincides with worldwide pressure on the country over human rights abuses against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient who was elected as citizen leader in 2015, has suffered a blow to her reputation following the crisis.

Before delivering his speech on Tuesday, Francis spoke to interfaith leaders at the archbishop's residence and separately met a prominent but controversial Buddhist leader. Her late husband, Mr Michael Aris, was a lecturer there, and the couple lived and raised their two sons in the city.

About 1900 Catholics from Bhamaw arrived Yangon on November 27th to participate in Pope Francis public Mass which will be held tomorrow. Pope Francis will wrap up his Myanmar visit with a Mass for young people on November 30 and fly to neighbouring Bangladesh in the afternoon.

Prior to his meetings with the president and state counselor, Pope Francis on Monday received Myanmar military Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who has been internationally condemned for alleged human rights abuses against the Rohingya by his troops. After the meeting, the military chief's office declared on Facebook that "Tatmadaw is making efforts to restore peace" and "there is no religious discrimination in Myanmar as the country ensures religious freedom". Yangon resident Tin Naing Tun, 30, a Buddhist, told The Straits Times: "He is visiting Myanmar now because our country is open and safe". I also hope he can bring our messages from the government and the Tatmadaw to the world.

Francis on Tuesday did not mention the Rohingya minority when sharing a stage with Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in which he said the country was suffering from civil conflict and hostilities "that have lasted all too long and created deep divisions".

Leading worldwide rights groups have called on Francis to speak out for the Rohingya and recognise their right to self-identity, as he has done previously.

More than 620,000 people have fled the country since violence ramped up in August.

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