The cameras may be gone but the Rohingya crisis rages on. Amid sexual violence, torture and mass murder at the hands of Myanmar’s military, calls for a referral to the International Criminal Court grow. Closer to home, the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee has denounced ‘the country’s deliberate state-sanctioned long-term, ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people,’ described as ‘the world’s most persecuted minority.’ With neighbouring Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in Asia, having accepted more refugees in just 3 weeks in September last year than came to Europe in the whole of 2016, it would seem that ‘crisis’ is putting it mildly.
For years Rohingya people have been treated as second class citizens under law in Myanmar. Former President of the Methodist Conference Loraine Mellor recently wrote to the Ambassador to the Embassy of Myanmar to register protest on behalf of our four churches. This month sees a further spotlight shone on the disaster with the trial of two investigative journalists, detained for seven months for reporting on the killing of ten Rohingya men by soldiers and villagers. The State alleges that they illegally obtained state documents in the course of their reporting. They allege that the documents were planted.
De facto Head of State Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for her silence in the wake of what the UN Secretary General has deemed ‘unimaginable,’ atrocities visited upon the minority. When questioned about the trial, she asserted: ‘They were arrested because they broke the Official Secrets Act… We cannot say now whether they were guilty or not. That will be up to the Judiciary.’
And indeed, due process must be observed. But in a regime where the law is either disregarded altogether or used selectively in a way that makes rights illusory, there is no guarantee and arguably little cause for hope. ‘As brothers and sisters in Christ, each of us is ‘God’s handiwork,’ (Eph 2:10.). We must therefore be wary of regimes which legislate to dehumanise, rather than protect vulnerable people. Like God’s laws, laws of the land must recognise that of God in every person; to make possible the fullness of life that is so desired for each of us.
When All We Can’s Laura Cook visited Cox’s Bazaar last year, one Rohingya woman said ‘We are all made of the almighty.’ None of us must hide behind the law when those laws deny that all humans are made in God’s image.
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