WHY POPE FRANCIS DID NOT USE THE TERM “ROHINGYA” ON HIS VISIT TO MYANMAR

by Josephine Moysey

From November 27th to 30th, 2017, Pope Francis visited Myanmar, the country I’ve called home for the last three years. There was much speculation before he arrived: would he say the word “Rohingya” or not? It’s not as simple decision as it might initially seem. Within Myanmar, the term “Rohingya” is perceived as somewhat inflammatory; the Rohingya themselves are seen as being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Many refer to them as “Bengali”. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi refers to them as “the Muslim community in Rakhine State”. A common opinion heard and shared among people within the Burmese Buddhist community is one of condemnation of the Pontiff, though this is not the official line. They have accused him of only supporting Muslims and not understanding or respecting the Buddhist community here. They say that even his very presence at this time shows that he is a Muslim sympathiser.

On the other hand, human rights groups urged the Pope to use the term “Rohingya”. They claimed the Pope needed to validate this identity and use the term as a show of support. Ultimately, Pope Francis did not use the term “Rohingya” whilst he was here. What was his reasoning for this?Continue Reading

IDENTITY, POLITICS, AND THE MOTHER TONGUE

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by Ananyaa Bhowmik

“Do you think mother‐tongue is a patriotic idea?”

“Of course it is”

“How?”

“Well, we happen to live in a state where the regions were divided according to language. Can you feel patriotic towards your region in a country like India? Patriotism is an inclusive concept, while mother‐tongue gives you identity when identity politics is played. It isolates. It is a constant struggle between feeling proud of your mother‐tongue while being included. By the way…”

“Yes?”

“‘Mother’ Tongue is a Patriotic concept. A conundrum, don’t you think?”

In light of recent events in JNU, and being part of a University (Jadavpur) that is one of the greatest supporters of those “anti‐nationalists”, it is perhaps amusing to note that I am attempting to discuss as patriotic – or nationalistic, even – an idea as mother‐tongue, in occasion of UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day. The University ground is a battlefield as each group tries to define what being a patriot actually means. Cries of “Vande Mataram” (All hail the Mother) ring out. In a country that has forever been portrayed as the Mother Goddess ‐ an object of devotion that is inaccessible, idolized, rigid and unchanging; a mere bearer of children, stripped of any other form of identity, in a burning country where youthful souls struggle to establish individual identities and right to choice, I sit writing on mother‐tongue. Mother‐tongue, which made me a Bengali, all because of a mere genetic accident. And where it all really began.Continue Reading