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News / Thoughts

Who are the Rohingya?

May 18, 2015

Some 1,000 migrants from Burma’s Rohingya minority have been abandoned at sea. Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand have all closed their ports to these people. To make their situation worse, their boats have been abandoned leaving them drifting in barely sea-worthy vessels. Some news reports estimate that there are as many as 6,000 Rohingyas currently at sea.

For years, the world has largely ignored the plight of Burma’s Rohingya people. The Rohingyas are a Muslim minority who face intense persecution and human rights abuses in Buddhist Burma.

According to the Guardian, more than 120,000 of them have sought to escape Burma in the last three years. It is not hard to see why. The Rohingya people are, essentially stateless. They are denied citizenship and only receive highly restricted access to healthcare and education. They have no freedom of movement and they are often on the receiving end of violent attacks. In many cases, mobs and radical Buddhist monks who are trying to preserve the country’s Buddhist purity perpetrate this violence.

We know that there are a small number of Christian converts among the Rohingya people. It’s tough being a Christian in a majority Muslim tribe, and even tougher when this particular Muslim tribe is hated by the Buddhist government. To be a Christian Rohingya is to be an outcasts among outcasts. In Myanmar – which is number 34 on the World Watch List – to be either a Rohingya or a Christian guarantees a lifetime of persecution.

Rohingya believers

An Open Doors team in India went to visit a Rohingya community where eight Rohingya families, about 40 believers in all, live as refugees in six small makeshift shelters made out of bamboo poles and plastic sheets.

One of the shelters is the meeting place where the believers gather for worship and Bible study.

Their leader is Amod, a Rohingya believer who became a Christian after reading a Bengali New Testament. His family also became Christians, although in the heart of their Muslim community they had to keep their faith secret.

There was no church in their Muslim Rohingya village so Amod asked a Christian worker from a large network of churches in Myanmar if he could join them. The worker refused to welcome a Rohingya. “She said that I would bring problems,” Amod recalls.

Soon news of his new faith emerged, his home was attacked by Muslims and he was forced to flee.

Eventually Amod escaped. First he made his way over the mountains to Bangladesh, moving at night to hide from the border patrols. A month later his family followed him. But in Balngadesh they found further hatred and persecution, so in the end he travelled with seven other Christian Rohingya households to India. They were betrayed by the person helping them cross the border, who cheated them upon learning that they were believers. But the police took pity on them and allowed them to continue.

And so Amod has ended up in India, leading and ministering to several Rohingya families in the cramped, harsh conditions of their camp.

Teach us the Bible…

Open Doors helps Rohingya Muslim-background believers through biblical training, prayer support, and practical aid. When they asked Amod what he needs he did not talk about food or medicine or even shelter.

“God is never late in answering our prayers.”

“Please teach us the Bible,” he said. “The clothes and the money you give us will be gone tomorrow, but the Word of God you teach us will be with us forever.” Amod’s Bible is the only copy of the Scriptures available in their entire camp.

And Amod has an amazing vision: to see 500,000 Rohingyas come to Christ before he dies.

“I feel that God will use me to reach out to them,” he says. “I have suffered a lot for my faith. I have a big burden for my own people. I also visit another Rohingya community to check if the Christians there are attending their night service.”

In all that he has been through, Amod holds one thing true: “God is never late in answering our prayers.”

Source: Open Doors; BBC; Guardian

Please pray…

  • For those Rohingya migrants abandoned and rejected on the sea, that they would be giving sanctuary
  • For the Rohingya Christians and Open Doors work with them
  • That the Burmese government would recognise the human rights of the Rohingya people.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.