Sunday, 17 May 2015

Help the Rohingya

In the past week, I've been seeing a lot of news stories focusing on the plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim people who mostly live in the Burmese state of Rakhine, where they are relentlessly persecuted, subjected to massacres and expulsions, and denied basic rights of any kind.  The Burmese authorities refuse to give them citizenship, claiming that they are from Bangladesh, while the government in Bangladesh disputes this claim and will not recognize the Rohingya as their responsibility either.  Hence, the Rohingya are a people without a country to call home.  They have been in the news recently because many of them, having attempted to flee persecution in Burma, now find themselves stranded at sea in appalling conditions on less than seaworthy boats because no country will give them refuge. 

When I saw the clips of the Rohingyas stranded on ships in the middle of the ocean begging for help, it reminded me of a dark chapter in Canadian history when in 1939, Canada turned away the St. Louis, a ship loaded with over nine hundred Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.  Actually, Canada was only one of several countries, including the U.S., Cuba and other Caribbean states that refused to allow the Jews to disembark on their soil.  This ship eventually sailed back to Europe, where some of the refugees ultimately met their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps.  Hence, as a Jew, I strongly empathize with the plight of the Rohingya people as their situation is not too dissimilar from the former situation of the Jewish people, who not too long ago were a people without a country, unwelcome wherever they hoped to find refuge.  Now it seems that the world is failing to stop the genocide against the Rohingya just as it failed to stop the slaughter of six million Jews in the Holocaust.  Have we learned nothing from history?

The Rohingya need more than the small handouts and lip service that they have been getting from the international community so far.  They need the world to take action and stop the persecution and genocide that is being committed against them in Burma.  Furthermore, they need to have place that they can call home.  I argued in one of my first blog posts that every persecuted people needs a homeland of their own, and even pointed to the Rohingya as an example (see: Why the Jewish People and Every Other Persecuted Nation Need a Home to Call Their Own).  Indeed, just as the Jewish Holocaust may have been prevented had the Jews had a country of their own when the Nazi death machine emerged, so too may the existence of a Rohingya homeland prevent the continuing genocide against the Rohingya Muslims.     

1 comment:

  1. Should the Rohingya have a separate country they call 'home' ? Or should they, being MUSLIMS, have refuge in a muslim country where they will not be persecuted by 'non-muslims'? Or should they have a separate country carved out on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh which they can call home and rule themselves as they wish. As a democracy maybe but most likely as a Shariah state?

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