Not a household name.
In fact, I venture to say very few, especially in the western world, have ever heard of the Rohingya. I know I hadn't until I watched a 20 minute news special on them. Perhaps years ago you heard about fights between Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims in India and surrounding countries.
The final outcome was this: the Muslims who are a minority in those areas were persecuted to the point they had to leave those countries. Most settled in Thailand - but their plight didn't end there. They found themselves as refugees in a country unwilling to let them become citizens and without basic rights. They have been living in Thailand relegated to live in certain areas only, similar to how Native Americans live on reservations in the United States of America ...
They are the Rohingya.
As the years have ticked off the calendar, Thailand's government has become "weary in well doing". They have fainted. They wanted the Rohingya out of their country and as quickly as possible.
Thailand's government officials told the Rohingya that Myanmar is not as troubled as it used to be and they (the government) would help them get back to Myanmar. So, thousands of the Rohingya trusted this "promise" and went through the process of being brought back to their "home" country.
Many boarded a boat believing they were on their way to Myanmar to see family members they hadn't seen in years, those they left behind. They were looking forward to a fresh start, perhaps they could actually find a job. The men had hopes and dreams of being better providers for their wives and children.
Only something went terribly wrong.
While on the boat, far from the borders of Thailand they were told by those operating the boat that they, the Rohingya, were now "owned/property/chattle" of said boat operators.
Thailand's government sold them out.
They sold them to human traffickers.
The men were then taken to the dense marshes along the coast of the Andaman sea. They lived in jungle like conditions and given no provisions. With no food or water they were left out in the elements awaiting their fate - to become slaves and more than likely working in deplorable conditions.
I know for some of you, reading this seems very foreign - it reads like a plot for a Hollywood blockbuster movie. However, this is the reality for many around the world. Being tricked into being trafficked for slave labor or the sex trade.
We know about the plight of the Rohingya primarily because a few got away and told their story. A few hundred have been rescued. But literally thousands of Rohingya have been "lost" into slavery...
I cannot begin to suggest any specific answers to the plight of the Rohingya Muslim population. They are unwanted in their home and surrounding countries. They were welcomed and then scorned. Where does one go when it seems as if absolutely no one wants you?
No one seems to care about you.
You are viewed to be profitable, but only as a slave.
Though I do not have the "practical" solution, I know the overall answer is the church. We are called to be Jesus' hands and feet. We are the ones called to go ... but many of us with our western understanding are too comfortable in our lives and too scared of the unknown to even stop and ask if God has chosen us specifically-individually to go.
"...Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7 NASB)
The bottom line is this: God counts each of us valuable! So, since I am valuable with all of my faults I know the Rohingya are valuable. God seeks for all of his children to be treated with dignity ... He seeks for all of his children to be set free. Jesus Himself read the passage from Isaiah 61 letting the world know His mission:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)
How then will we engage in Jesus' mission? Will we seek to seek to see the oppressed freed? Regardless of their race, ethnicity, or religion...?
Will we challenge our politicians, pastors, and people in our circle of influence to be active in righting the wrongs of slavery still being carried out and profitable around the world?
Many that read this blog take for granted what our own ancestors had to go through for 400 + years. We talk about it, act as if we are outraged by it, yet we continue to be unaffected if we hear about someone currently going through it. It isn't our problem, we have have our own problems ... We fail to see beyond our problems and how they are tied to this pervasive problem.
However, if we don't help others how can we expect to receive help?
If you claim to be a blood bought believer you cannot turn a blind eye and think it is okay. You are called to action and yes, prayer is action.
So, now that you know about the Rohingya, what will you do?
Just Around the Corner,