‘Textbook ethnic cleansing… and the world simply stands idly by”
Pope Francis is due to visit Myanmar in late November this year. Hopefully, his visit will help the country’s political leader Aung San Suu Kyi—who made such sacrifices for the cause of democracy—do more to help Myanmar’s embattled Muslim community. For many Rohingya, however, such support may come too late. The chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA comments:
Ousted by brutal force from their homes in Myanmar where the country’s Muslim minority has lived for centuries, an estimated 400,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh where they are living in deplorable conditions, largely abandoned by the world’s powers.
Who will take care of them? Who will ensure the future of their culture, their faith, their very existence?
Those questions should be burning in the hearts of Christians the world over, particularly those in the West with the ability to call on their governments to meet force with force to stop what UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has labelled “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
Such was the response by the US when I was about to literally wipe out the Yazidi community in the summer of 2014. It would take two years before the US classified IS crimes against Christians, Yazidis and other minorities as genocide. And still today many thousands are awaiting the practical outcome of that designation: the freeing up of sufficient funds to rebuild devastated communities, put in place reliable security arrangements, and spur economic development.
Particularly in Iraq and Syria today, but also in dozens and dozens of other countries around the world, Christians are persecuted for their faith. They are no strangers to the fate presently meted out to the Rohingya. A representative of Human Rights Watch commented: “the reality on the ground is much much worse than any image can describe…I’ve never seen a group this devastated, this destroyed. It’s incredibly bleak.” We Christians know the price of silence on the part of the world’s powers.
Let Christians stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Muslims in calling out the Buddhist regime of Myanmar to halt its fury and cruelty—its trampling of the human rights of a harmless and utterly vulnerable population. The Rohingya suffer simply because their faith differs from that of the majority Buddhists bent on ‘purifying’ their nation. This is no different than jihadists killing those who do not share their extremist beliefs.
Christians everywhere have the duty to rally to the defence of the Rohingya, to call for respect for their human dignity, including—first and foremost—their freedom of religion and freedom of conscience. Next, urgent action must be taken to halt the violence in Myanmar, along with the commitment of significant sums to provide these refugees with adequate humanitarian aid.
Christians—as well as Jews, Yazidis and so many other minorities in harm’s way—and Rohingya live in a communion of suffering. Failing to act on behalf of our grossly neglected brothers and sisters would be truly unconscionable.