THE United Nations has called the now-stateless Rohingya one of the most persecuted minorities on Earth. The Rohingya have been in Myanmar since the 8th century, yet the government refuses to grant them citizenship. Instead, they are called Bengali insurgents who are in Myanmar illegally.
Prominent Buddhist leaders and government officials have used dangerous rhetoric against them. Some Buddhist leaders have compared Muslims to jackals and wolves in order to dehumanize them.
The action taken by the many in Buddhist majority population is tantamount to ethnic cleansing.
In October 2012, organized mobs of Arakanese Buddhists attacked nine Rohingya villages, savagely beating and killing many Muslims. A 24-year-old Rohingya man from Yan Thei village had his way of living destroyed in minutes. This is how he described the events:
“There were so many Arakanese coming to our village, from every side. They surrounded the village. The Arakanese stormed our village and started setting fire to our houses and threatening to kill us.
“Women and children fled the village first and some of the Arakanese chased them and killed them while some other Arakanese were still in the village, burning houses down. At least 30 children were killed, 25 women, and 10 men.”
In Yan Thei village, the authorities knew that an attack was imminent. However, the government was indifferent to the pleas of the Rohingya Muslims. Throughout the villages attacked in October 2012, the stories are disgracefully similar. Since the start of the attacks, many Rohingya have been expelled from their homes and restricted to overcrowded camps. Here they are subjected to malnourishment and cruel treatments. Human rights and medical aid organizations have tried to help, but they have been restricted by government forces.
This past Friday, June 13, marked the second anniversary of the escalating violence against Rohingya Muslims. Many, including myself, wore black in solidarity with the oppressed Rohingya in Myanmar.
In Canada, I am proud to be able to practice my faith unhindered. In fact, when I first came to the Senate, for the first year, during Ramadan, I fasted alone. The second year, although they were not Muslim, many Senate employees celebrated Ramadan by fasting with me. I dream of a day when people all over the world will be able to exercise their faith as we do in our great country.