Maybe you’ve heard about the Rohingya refugee crisis before, or maybe you’re not sure who the Rohingya are. Maybe you’re not even sure how to pronounce Rohingya (hint: it’s “row-hing-ya”). The crisis is complex, but here are 5 things to help you on your journey towards deeper compassion and understanding.
1. Who are the Rohingya?
The Rohingya people are an ethnic group from Myanmar. Myanmar is a majority Buddhist country, but the Rohingya are primarily Muslim.
2. Why are they being persecuted?
When Myanmar became a military state in 1962, the Rohingya became victims of state-sponsored persecution in order to establish “Myanmarisation” – a nationalist ideology based around racial and religious purity in the land. Then, in 1982, Myanmar passed a citizenship law that denied citizenship to the Rohingya. This left the Rohingya as “non-citizens.” As a people with no rights, they are considered stateless, illegal immigrants, and unwelcome in their home.
3. When did they begin fleeing from Myanmar?
Nearly a quarter of a million Rohingya fled Myanmar after 1978, when the government launched “Operation King Dragon,” which was a military strategy to ethnically cleanse the land. Military tactics have continued to cause Rohingya to flee. Then, in 2017, a group of Rohingya militants attacked the Myanmar army. That attack incited even more state-sponsored persecution, and led to a huge influx in Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. Before the 2017 crisis, it was estimated that there were around 1 million Rohingya still living in Myanmar. As of August 2018, little over 250,000 remain.
4. What do Rohingya refugees want you to know?
A lot of the Rohingya refugees just want others to know about them. They want you to know that they exist, to learn about their people, and to learn about what they went through to get here to the U.S.
5. What do we want you to know about the Rohingya people?
As we spend time with our Rohingya friends and neighbors, the theme that comes up again and again is hopelessness. The situation for Rohingya seems hopeless. Relief work can provide temporary hope, but Jesus alone can bring lasting hope. And with Rohingya, friendship is key. Friendship paves the way for genuine relationship and opportunities to share true hope.
For further reading, this article by National Geographic is very helpful. Would you join us in praying for the Rohingya people, both here in the U.S. and elsewhere?