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ICC Note: Extremist groups try to antagonize the Christian minority before the Pope’s historic journey to the Asian nation. Pope’s appeal to end violent persecution of Rohingya religious minority has brought harsh criticism of Myanmar. Some Buddhist nationalists have found Pope’s appeal to end violence against Rohingya’s extremely offensive. The tensions are mostly on the social media and currently there is no serious threat to the security of the Pope.

11/5/2017 Myanmar (Herald Malaysia) – Burmese Buddhists have expressed their closeness and solidarity to Myanmar’s small Catholic community, which has recently been the object of provocations ahead of Pope Francis’s upcoming apostolic visit to the country (27-30 November).

Recently, pictures showing Aye Ne Win, grandson of former Myanmar dictator General Ne Win, dressed up as the pope imparting “blessings” at a Halloween party (picture 2), have sparked a controversy.

Catholics have expressed their outrage on social media, and received support from Buddhists who also feel offended.

For some, such mockery is an attempt by some military and extremist groups to antagonise the Christian minority on the eve of the pope’s historic journey to the Asian nation.

Some in the military and among Buddhist nationalist groups, like the Ma Ba Tha movement, have taken to the Internet to express their loathing of the papal visit. They accuse the Holy Father of collaborating with the Rohingya Muslim minority.

To back their views, these groups have circulated online pictures of Pope Francis washing the feet of inmates in Paliano prison last April, one of whom was a Muslim.

The extremists also cannot forget the appeal the pope made in favour of the Rohingya in his Angelus on 27 August, which triggered harsh criticism in Myanmar.

Most are critical of the pope’s call for prayer for the recognition of the rights of the Muslim minority, much hated by many ethnic Burmese. The pope’s use of the word “Rohingya” has met with great disfavour in public opinion.

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