Myanmar’s more than 1 million Rohingya Muslims are considered illegal immigrants by the Burmese government and, as a result, they’re essentially stateless.
In the Buddhist-majority country, they’ve been on the receiving end of religious and nationalist discrimination. A crisis the United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, has called “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
When I hear the phrase “ethnic cleansing,” I’m reminded of the Holocaust. Ethnic cleansing is the systematic oppression and murder the Nazis party inflicted on the Jews and many other minority groups during World War II. So why is it that the phrase has surfaced again?
In Myanmar, north of Thailand in South Asia, the military is cracking down on the Rohingya people. An estimated 300,000 and Rohingya have fled the country. They‘re escaping to Bangladesh in hopes that they can escape the persecution they face from their own government. Many have had to witness the horrors of seeing their friends shot dead and their houses burn down in front of them.
Means of escape are becoming difficult to find because the prices of ferry rides, food and shelter are soaring. For many Rohingya, this makes it impossible to flee, so they’re forced to stay and face the persecution.
Many of the refugees are leaving to Bangladesh, and that poses a big problem to both the country and the immigrants seeking refuge. Bangladesh is still suffering from the effects of the massive monsoons that have left a third of the country underwater. A country that is struggling to recover from a massive natural disaster cannot be expected to take care of, even if it is only temporary, over 300,000 refugees adequately. Bangladesh has their own people to worry about for the moment without the huge influx of refugees streaming in from Myanmar, even if they do need the help.
It saddens me to hear that this issue stems from religious beliefs. In my experience learning about different religions, I have found that the core values they share are peace, love and care for our fellow man. To hear that hate, which should be the opposite of what religion stands for, is sprouting from theological differences is heartbreaking.
Ethnic cleansing has been prevalent, as racism and prejudice areis still rampant throughout the world. It just happens to come to light when it’s on a large scale such as this one.
I don’t believe that either of these two religions are inherently violent or racist by nature, people can pick and choose religious texts and beliefs out of context to fit their own personal ideas. This is an issue that is not just in Islam or Buddhism, but in Christianity as well. We all need to make a conscious decision over how will we treat others regardless of our beliefs or theirs.
Wesley Rodriguez-Diep is a sophomore studying international relations.