Leading figures in the Catholic Church and international politics have advised Pope Francis not to use the term Rohingya during a trip to Myanmar due to political sensitivities but human rights groups want him to uphold international law on self-identity.
Hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya have fled Myanmar following a military crackdown that the United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing. Majority Buddhist Myanmar rejects the term Rohingya and does not recognize them as citizens nor as an ethnic group in its own right.
In the run-up to the his Nov. 27-Dec. 2 trip to Myanmar and Bangladesh, several high-profile figures including former U.S. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Myanmar Cardinal Charles Maung Bo have indicated he should not use the term Rohingya.
The pope, a less predictable figure than his predecessor who has overruled advisors in the past, has used the term Rohingya before, and it is widely employed by international institutions such as the United Nations and governments including the United States.
The Vatican, which does not make comments on papal speeches ahead of trips, would not say if Francis might heed the advice and use a term like “Muslims in Rakhine State”. Roman Catholics make up a tiny minority in Myanmar.