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 — two-thirds of them children — 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 globally, particularly those in the West with the ability to call on their governments to meet force with force to stop what U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein labels "textbook ethnic cleansing."
Such was the response by the U.S. when ISIS was about to literally wipe out the Yazidi community in the summer of 2014. It would take two years before the U.S. classified ISIS 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 so 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 defense of the Rohingya, to call for respect of 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.
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact," and "Christian Persecutions in the Middle East: A 21st Century Tragedy." He is chairman of Aid to the Church in Need-USA. Mr. Marlin also writes for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. To read more George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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