Have You Seen that Movie about Ethnic Cleansing?
The setting is the border of Bangladesh and Myanmar border that stretches 270 kilometers. Just under the distance from Calgary to Edmonton. The former Burma has a rich history in the region and hosts a population of approximately 52 million people, 90 percent of which are Buddhist. The remainder being a mix of Christians and Muslims. And there, embedded in this ancient land, is a tragic history of the Rohingya people.
Not a lot of people are aware of the plight of these people. Myself included. In fact, I felt guilty for only learning of their devastating history after traveling to Bangladesh a few years back. The Rohingya people have been described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Their situation is desperate and they have been described as being the victims of ethnic cleansing. Despite having a population of over one million, they are not recognized as one of the 8 national races of Myanmar. As a result, they are persecuted, killed, tortured and chased from their land by government forces and extreme ultra-national Buddhists. This is no movie. This is real life. And it’s happening right now.
Perhaps we have never heard of them because they are on the opposite side of the world. Or because they were being silenced. But now that we have, now that we know of the atrocities, we cannot turn away. Since August of this year there has been a “clearance operation” and they have had their villages burned. There have been 3-4000 killed and over 400,000 displaced into Bangladesh.
Team Broken Earth has been to Bangladesh and has formed great relationships there with the SAJIDA foundation. Most recently, we performed a women’s health course. Since our departure the Rohingya refugee crisis has worsened and the pressure has drawn SAJIDA to the border of Myanamar.
I have been in almost daily communication with the SAJIDA founder who is unable to text at times she is so distraught and tormented by the sites she has witnessed. From the border she says you can see burning villages and masses of people crossing the border.
Over four hundred thousand people have been displaced (almost the population of Newfoundland), and are living in deplorable conditions with no running water, no food or health care. You could feel the tears in her text when describing that more than 80% are women and children, many of whom walked for 4-5 days with no food after their village was burned and many of their husbands killed. She described a scene of women sitting with kids alone in the dark, not knowing where to turn, where to go next, having been “cleared” from their ancient home by their own government. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to imagine this happening today. But it is. It does. It will again.
Friends. Colleagues. Supporters. We cannot turn a blind eye. We have seen this movie before. Call it a clearance operation but know it is ethnic cleansing. We know it ends badly. We need to act. To call on our politicians and leaders to divert funds, add support, and put a stop to this now before the credits role and we carry some guilt and the weight of neglect.
Please find it in your heart to give a little more to help address this humanitarian crisis happening to the Rohingya people. Your generosity will go along way to helping their plight as the flee to Bangladesh.
Visit https://www.gifttool.com/donations/Donate?ID=2250&AID=4838 to help. All donations go directly to the SAJIDA foundation currently on the frontline of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis in Bangladesh.