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Pope issues stinging warning about Myanmar's treatment of Rohingya

Pope Francis, left, blesses the faithful during a general audience at the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican on February 8, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Pope Francis has issued a stinging criticism of the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

In his remarks on Wednesday, the leader of the world's Catholics said the members of the ethnic minority group had been killed "simply because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith."

Pope said the Rohingya were forced to be "moved from one place to the other because no one wants them."

"But they are good people, peaceful. They are not Christian. They are good people. They are our brothers and sisters," the pontiff added, as he addressed people at the weekly general audience.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Pope Francis appealed for prayers for the Rohingya.

"I would like to pray together with you today in a special way for our Rohingya brothers and sisters."

The remarks came following last week's UN report that security forces in the north of Myanmar had carried out mass killings, gang rapes and burned villages.

Earlier in the month, a report by the UN human rights office said Myanmar's crackdown on the Rohingya had likely killed hundreds of people, in a campaign that could amount to crimes against humanity and "ethnic cleansing."

Meanwhile, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng recently said the scale of violence against the Rohingya was “revolting and unacceptable.”

Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday that Myanmar's government forces had committed “rape and other sexual violence” against women and girls of the Rohingya.

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The Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar amid persecution at the hands of extremist Buddhists and the military.

This file screen grab taken on January 4, 2017 from a YouTube video originally taken by Myanmar Constable Zaw Myo Htike (pictured at far left, looking at camera) shows a policeman (back L) kicking out at a Rohingya villager seated on the ground with others, in the village of Kotankauk during a police area clearance operation on November 5, 2016. (Via AFP)

Myanmar has long faced international criticism for its treatment of the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and live in conditions rights groups have compared to those of the Blacks under the former apartheid regime in South Africa.

Since October 2016, Myanmar’s army has been carrying out a military crackdown in Rakhine state, where a large number of the Rohingya live.

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