Burma (MNN) — The nation of Burma has been at war with its ethnic people for the past 40 years. While conflict is an ever-present reality, at least there has been a general “ebb and flow” of attacks. Ethnic minority groups can usually hide in the jungle while government forces seek to destroy their population.
But for the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state–also known as Arakan state, Burma’s government isn’t the only foe they need protection from. The Rakhine people, ethnic Buddhists, also want them gone.
The Rohingya crisis has been escalating since the summer of 2012. Oddny Gumaer of Partners Relief and Development says the situation isn’t going away.
“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of good news coming from the Rakhine state and from the Rohingyas,” she notes. “At least 150,000 people are in refugee camps, and they’re not getting any kind of international aid. People are starving from lack of food and clean water.
“And also, people are dying because there is no medical care. They have no doctors, no nurses, no medicine.”
In late February, Burma’s government forced Doctors Without Borders to remove its staff and stop practicing medicine in Rakhine state–simply because they had cared for Rohingya patients. Then, during the last week of March, more than 170 UN and international NGO staff were evacuated from Sittwe.
Some groups, like Partners, still have a presence in Rakhine state, but it’s little more than a deadly tease.
“To me, that is an unbelievable injustice,” Gumaer states. “People are starving to death, and there are organizations who have the means to help them, but they’re not able to because it’s illegal to help.”
Despite legal restrictions, Partners is doing what they can to help Muslim Rohingyas.
“The strength that we have is that because we are small, it’s easier for us to sneak in and sneak out, and not get noticed,” observes Gumaer.
Last week, two Partners workers were able to enter Rakhine state and deliver 27 tons of rice to some of the Rohingya refugees. Their committed care speaks volumes to the ethnic Muslims.
“They were blown away that we came back, even though it was dangerous, and did what we did for them,” says Gumaer. “It’s very clear to them that God loves them and that we are His hands and feet in this situation.
“When they see us, they call us ‘the Christians who care.’ And I think that would make Jesus proud to hear, that that’s the testimony we are bringing into this camp.”
One of the Rohingya men even embraced a Partners worker and called him brother.
“That’s a pretty strong testimony of how God’s love is being made very evident in practical action toward these people.”
You can help Partners bring the hope and love of Christ to even more Rohingya. Thanks to a generous donor, each gift to Partners’ Emergency Fund is being doubled.
“The money that we are given for this purpose is very well-spent,” Gumaer notes. “It’s amazing how far $100 goes when you are in a very remote place and [when you] have the local contacts that we have.”
Ask the Lord to protect Partners staff as they deliver supplies and to give them wisdom. And, it might sound farfetched, but pray for Burma’s government to change their stand on Rohingya citizenship. Pray that the Rohingya will be counted as citizens of Burma so they can come out of hiding and return to their homes.
“What needs to happen is a change from the top level,” says Gumaer.
“I mean, we can keep buying rice and tarps and medicine for these people forever, but unless there is a bigger change on a national level, [it's] just not enough.”