We are too familiar with the current immigration crisis in the United States where families are being torn apart, mothers deported while their children remain, and families risking their lives to cross the border to flee violence. Yet this crisis is not ours alone; it is happening on a global scale as violence and humanitarian crises continue to push families out of their homelands.
Following violence in Rakhine between security forces and a militant group, Rohingya refugees have been fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 25th. The Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority who live in Myanmar’s far western Rakhine State, are denied citizenship by the Myanmar government who consider them illegal immigrants. As they flee to Bangladesh to avoid violence and persecution, they face pushback from the Bangladesh government who don’t want to open their doors. According to the BBC, more than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August.
The Myanmar military have claimed their operations in Rakhine are to root out militants and that they are not targeting civilians. However, the stories of reporters, refugees, and witnesses clearly say otherwise. Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights has called this campaign by the Myanmar military ethnic cleansing. (Read a UN report on the violent military campaign). These actions, including executions, mass rape, and widespread burning of villages while residents are still in their homes, are crimes against humanity. The human rights abuses against the Rohingya must stop, and humanitarian aid must be provided.
Some international leaders fear this will be the next genocide, following Rwanda, Darfur, Bosnia, and Kosovo. A friend recently shared with me a TED Talk about the current refugee crisis. In it, the presenter said “the biggest question in the 21st century concerns our duties to strangers… the world is more connected than ever before, yet the great danger is that we’re consumed by our divisions.” Our diversity should not divide us, and the world should not turn a blind eye on attacks against innocent civilians including women and children. The Rohingya need to be seen and heard and need to be protected.
How can we help? From the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns:
The Elijah Interfaith Institute in Australia offers a prayer for the Rohingya.
A provision in the U.S. Senate’s current draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would increase U.S. military engagement with Myanmar. Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor a bipartisan amendment (SA 607) to strike this language and to suspend all U.S. financial aid to Myanmar’s military. Read the letter 125 faith leaders sent to Congress.
The UK government suspended its financial aid to Myanmar’s military on September 19. Please click here to tell Congress that the United States should do the same.
For more information, see this article.