Does the Pope's visit to Bahrain Contribute to Deepening Suffering of Shiites?
2022-10-21 - 11:31 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): His Holiness, Pope Francis, is visiting Bahrain to participate in a dialogue on human coexistence. The title itself is fascinating, but behind it there is absolute lack of faith in dialogue.
The Pope has always stressed the importance of dialogue to solve problems, including the Vatican's problem with China. He also knows the pain he endured when Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to meet him in Kazakhstan last month.
Beijing was told that Pope Francis was ready to meet the Chinese president while they were together in the capital Nur-Sultan, but Chinese officials refused, claiming there's "insufficient time."
That was just an excuse to refuse to meet with the Pope and settle outstanding issues between the two sides, as the King of Bahrain does with his repeated rejection of dialogue and settling the political dispute that has plagued the country for more than a decade.
At least the Chinese president does not host dialogues for religious tolerance and human coexistence, at a time when his country faces constant doubts about its religious freedoms situation, which has prompted His Holiness, the Pope, to finally say in a statement that "Uyghurs Muslims (in China) are persecuted."
Nonetheless, Bahrain's king, who persecutes the Shia community, finds no shame in hosting a dialogue on human coexistence, as if he wants to portray himself as one of the pillars of dialogue and coexistence in the world.
Persecuted groups fear that the king will use this event to hide the other face of Bahrain's image, where dozens have been killed, where there are thousands of Shia prisoners and death row inmates, and hundreds of families in exile, including Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim.
In fact, chances are high that the Pope's visit to Bahrain, without any stance taken in this regard even in secret, could send a negative message to the King that the propaganda has succeeded in enforcing his polished image as a tolerant man, and that that image cannot be easily altered.
This message could push the king to be more strict with the Shia community at home, which he is doing now despite promises he has made to Shia leaders regarding their demands to release detainees.
The papacy does not want to be at all a party to supporting hardline rulers, but their agreement to have the pope visit Bahrain without taking any stance on the persecution of Shiites could mean that it is inadvertently playing a negative role in deepening Shia suffering.
A public stand taken by his Holiness supporting course correction in Bahrain could help break through a wall the king has built around himself, preventing him from listening to the cries of detainees, the tortured and persecuted in his country.
His Holiness the Pope has stated on more than one occasion that he seeks to "support the path of dialogue," and that "Through dialogue, a lot of things can be clarified." The Pope is called upon to convey this message to the King when he meets him in Sakhir on November 3rd, urging him to adopt a similar approach to the situation in his country.