Over 600,000 Muslims and 500 Hindus have fled to Bangladesh from the Rakhine state of Myanmar, and it is reported more are waiting to flee. The influx started 25 August 2017 and such a sudden inflow of people has put Bangladesh under huge pressure, which could cause massive social and economic disorder. The situation is too devastating and is beyond manageable.
The world's humanity has been shaken by violence that has killed more than 400 people, burned 2,600 houses, raped and assaulted hundreds of women, and drowned more than 80 people who were fleeing the violence.
The UN Security Council expressed concern about excessive force used by Myanmar during its security operation in Rakhine state and called for "immediate steps" to end the violence. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing, while Myanmar's de facto head of state is denying the facts calling it "fake news" and blaming the atrocities on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Whatever the causes of the aggression, the current situation of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is beyond explanation.
We do not think comments and concerns are enough to resolve the situation. For the last 30 years this episodic fleeing has been going on and nearly 400,000 Rohingyas took shelter in Bangladesh prior to this most recent event. Bangladesh has yet to solve the issue and, in the meantime, Myanmar has developed economic and political ties with neighboring countries like China and India, who have economic interests in Rakhine state due to large-scale development efforts, which also has a role in the persecution.
Without international pressure and systematic diplomatic efforts, the current crisis will not be solved. But the fate of the displaced people is uncertain now. Whatever the ethnic differences, people should not suffer in such a brutal manner. The Rohingya have roots that date back centuries in Rakhine state and Myanmar cannot deny that history and make them a landless and stateless people. It is absolutely a gross violation of basic human rights.
The situation is growing hostile to the Rohingya in Bangladesh, as the country has limited resources to sustain those arriving. Bangladeshi's feel the increased burden and feel the social and economic problems growing in the areas where Rohingya have fled.
The UN General Assembly has shown its concern as well as many individual dignitaries. They called for an immediate solution of the crisis by repatriation of the fled people, but it seems uncertain to be solved as the UN Security Council has failed to come together to take a resolution towards that goal.
UN member states urged Myanmar authorities to end the military campaign against the Rohingya in a resolution adopted despite opposition from China, Russia and some regional neighbors. The General Assembly's human rights committee overwhelmingly endorsed the measure presented by Muslim countries by a vote of 135 to 10, with 26 countries abstaining. UN member states said they were "highly alarmed" by the violence and "further alarmed by the disproportionate use of force by the Myanmar forces" against the Rohingya.
Myanmar’s Union Minister for the Office of the State, Counsellor Kyaw Tint Swe, and Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Abdul Hassan Mahmud Ali, signed the Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State in Naypyitaw on November 23, 2017. Under the deal, the repatriation process is expected to begin in two months. Also, the two countries agreed to form a joint working group at the foreign-secretary level to start the repatriation process.
Pope Francis visited Bangladesh, the fourth most populous Muslim country in the world, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2017 after he made a visit to Myanmar in the midst of Rohingya refugee crisis between two countries.
Bangladesh's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, visited the Rohingya refugees and expressed her deep concern and care for the refugees. She pledged to do whatever she can, although Bangladesh is a poor country. Almost all humanitarian agencies have visited the Rohingya refugees and strongly urged the parties to solve the issue immediately, regardless of politics, considering humanitarian needs and rights.
Prime Minister Hasina also laid out a five point proposal to the situation in a speech to the UN General Assembly:
- Myanmar must unconditionally stop the violence and the practice of ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State immediately and permanently.
- The UN Secretary General should immediately send a fact-finding mission to Myanmar.
- All civilians, irrespective of religion and ethnicity, must be protected in Myanmar. To that end, "safe zones" could be created inside of Myanmar under UN supervision.
- Ensure sustainable return of all forcibly displaced Rohingya to their homes in Myanmar.
- The recommendations of Kofi Annan's Commission Report must be immediately implemented unconditionally and in its entirety.
The Church of Bangladesh feels called to stand on the side of the victims. The situation is too disruptive, messy, and has led to extreme misery. In particular, for the women and children who have been forced to live in an inhumane state with no certainty of food and other essentials and becoming prone to human trafficking. We strongly believe no one should be stateless in God’s world.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was stranger and you invited me in, I needed cloths and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Matthew 25:35-26