A Holocaust On The Horizon: For The Sake Of Humanity, The Authorities in Myanmar Must Be Brought To Their Senses
06 May 2015
By Tariq A. Al-Maeena
There are signs of a new holocaust, one in the 21st century that is happening
in Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. If the flood that is fueling
this impending holocaust is not arrested now, it will soon materialize into a
full-scale slaughter and there will then be no looking back. It concerns the
Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar who for the most part have been ignored
by the rest of the Muslim world.
Researchers from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum recently stated
that ''conditions in Myanmar are ripe for genocide against the Rohingya
Muslim minority and the treatment of Rohingya Muslims could be the prelude to
genocide.'' The staff from the Washington museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for
the Prevention of Genocide visited the southeast Asian nation in March and
carried out a detailed inspection of the areas to which the Rohingya have
been confined. They were there to examine the settings and circumstances of
the Rohingya Muslim minority in a primarily Buddhist country and the threats
that they were being subjected to. The visit was prompted by disturbing signs
of an impending and calculated ethnic cleansing operation.
During their visit, they went to internment camps not unlike those of the
Nazis during World War II and witnessed first-hand how the Rohingya have been
herded and shepherded into ''cordoned-off ghettos, separated from their
They concluded that the Rohingya are ''the target of rampant hate speech, the
denial of citizenship, and restrictions on the freedom of movement. These and
a host of other human rights violations have put this population at grave
risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide.''
The team of researchers in a statement said: ''We saw first-hand the
Rohingya's physical segregation, which has resulted in a modern form of
apartheid, and the devastating impact that official policies of persecution
are having on them. When asked what the Myanmar government wants to do with
them, one Rohingya advocate replied, ‘They want us all to go away.''' The
team left Myanmar with a heavy heart, ''deeply concerned that so many
preconditions for genocide are already in place. But there is still an
opportunity to prevent this devastating outcome.''
Myanmar has been the site of several outbreaks of religious tension in recent
years, most notably violence between Muslims and Buddhists in western Rakhine
state that left tens of thousands homeless, and the intensity of violence has
forced hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya to flee to neighboring
countries only to find themselves prisoners in refugee camps. The country's
parliament recently began a debate on two controversial interfaith bills that
critics say could escalate into an explosive conflict between religious
groups in the country.
The increasing violence with the state's complicit acquiescence in
encouraging Buddhist terrorism against minorities prompted David Saperstein,
US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, to state that
Myanmar was facing a serious challenge regarding the equality of
non-Buddhists in the country.
Ambassador Saperstein during a recent visit to the country said that
''religious minorities face obstacles and challenges not imposed on the
country's Buddhist majority. In the area of religious freedom, of religious
tensions, of minority religions not having equal rights with the overwhelming
Buddhist community, there are serious challenges facing the country.''
He added that ''there have sometimes been attacks on minority religious
communities and the government has not acted forcefully - or as quickly as it
could have done - to try to put an end to them. Where the government has
intervened in such cases, as they have done recently since the new government
took office, it has really made a difference.''
The US diplomat met with government officials and representatives of
religious groups and made clear his country's intolerance of the conditions
imposed on the Rohingya and other minorities. But one senior Christian pastor
from the Kachin Baptist Church, said he was not optimistic. ''In this
country, we could never hope that our Christians and Muslims and other
minority groups can spread their own faith to the people,'' he said.
For the sake of humanity, the authorities in Myanmar must be brought to their
senses even if it requires forceful means to do so. Can we in the future hold
our heads high knowing we silently stood by when this most recent of
— The author can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena