Last Saturday I found myself again at the steps of WA Parliament. The rally was organised at short notice to give public expression to the grotesque genocide and horrendous ethnic cleansing that is taking place in Myanmar (Burma) for the Rohingyan refugees.
The media have brought us tragic images of over 400,000 ethic Rohingyan refugees fleeing their homes and burning villages to cross the border over to Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world and almost totally unable to cope with the hungry, traumatised and stateless Rohingyans.
I attended and spoke at the rally as a leader of a Christian church. Most of those at the rally were Moslems. Yes, Rohingyas are Muslims but when there is suffering and injustice it is not an issue of religion but of humanity. These Muslim Rohingyas have been the target of violence, rape and brutal military oppression by the Burmese military. The news pictures show the squalid conditions that these refugees are forced to live in.
I was at the rally as a Christian and as a fellow human being. Someone in the crowd shouted out, “I am a Rohingyan”. They may have been, but I think that they were reminding us that we are members of the human family, when it comes to being in solidarity with those who are poor and suffer.
My Christian faith invites me to love my neighbour unconditionally, where he or she be Hindu, Buddhist Jew or Moslem.
My Christian faith reminds me that God’s care and compassion as modelled in Jesus cuts across every religious, social and political divide.
Yes, I am a struggling Christ follower, but also I share in God’s universal passion to seek the wellbeing of all people, whether they be in Burma or in Brisbane.
It will take a considerable humanitarian effort from the world community to begin to alleviate the terrible suffering of these people. We continue to demand that our government and all governments who can, to make this an urgent priority. Disease and needless death will grow if there is no immediate action.
As we lift our voices in protest, as we put our hands together in prayer, as we dig deep into our pockets with donations, as we empathise and act for Rohingyan, maybe we too can say “I am a Rohingyan”.
Rev Steve Francis
Moderator, Uniting Church WA