Rohingya: a foreign word to most students at Bedford High School. Honestly, it was a foreign word to me before I wrote this article. The Rohingya are a Muslim group that is being persecuted in their home country of Myanmar, and as a result, fled to Bangladesh, and do not show signs of stopping. This problem seems unrelated to the United States because Myanmar is 7,882 miles away. However, this is a problem for all leading countries because the refugee crisis our world is facing does not seem to be slowing anytime soon.
Allow me to give you a crash course: Basically, the Rohingya are described to have settled in a zone in Myanmar intended for Muslims. All was well until Myanmar gained independence from the British, and in 1949 Myanmar passed the Union Citizenship Act which defined which ethnicities could gain citizenship: Only two generations of the Rohingya were allowed to apply for the identity card which meant that many Rohingya would not be recognized as citizens.
This meant that the Rohingya did not exist, leaving countless people to fend for citizenship or lack thereof. Ultimately, the Rohingya were left to flee to Bangladesh and other neighboring countries. This has been going on since the seventies, but after the killings of nine border police by a reported armed Rohingya group in October 2016, crackdowns on Rohingya villages started to get more violent and intense. This meant that more Rohingya would flee, which put an even greater target on their back.
To this day State Chancellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, says that the Myanmar government does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group and has blamed violence on them. To Myanmar, the Rohingya do not exist, but are a group of “terrorists”; there is a reason that the Rohingya are considered “the world’s most persecuted minority.”
Wow, okay that was a lot of information. Despite the fact that this was probably more information thrown at you than when your teacher gives a twenty slide powerpoint in the last ten minutes of class, you should care as a resident of the United States. This is a matter of helping a worldwide humanitarian crisis, seeing as the US is a very influential world leader.
Nolan Raike, a junior, says that the U.S., as well as other world powers, need to lead by example and start offering solutions specifically for the governments of these smaller countries: “The international community needs to intervene in a way that helps these government become more stable … We need to focus on supporting these governments so they become more progressive.” Raike proposes that we help their government be able to support the people they have, and that we as a country should not just use “short-term solutions.”
Besides supporting their governments, another valid thought is what if the United States simply made a statement. Rosemary Marr, a junior, recognizes this as the way to go: Rosemary sees that hatred for the Rohingya “has been rooted into their [Myanmar’s] culture,” and thus this cannot be simply stopped. As a solution, Rosemary’s thought used the idea that there is power in numbers: “We can vocally condemn them … That puts other countries eyes on Myanmar, and it makes them less likely to continue their ethnic cleansing.”
Although this ongoing problem is not going to disappear overnight, we as a country need to start taking action. This is not just a territorial issue, but an issue regarding one of our core values as a country: religious freedom. No one should be persecuted for their beliefs – based on human rights, we need to start taking action to alleviate further violent action used by Myanmar. As of now, however, there are multiple groups that support helping refugees, some of them being charities and others being rescue committees. I implore you to help and donate to provide relief while encouraging our government to make a statement and aid their fellow human beings.