Rohingya Muslims stranded in Indian Ocean

Rohingya Muslims

Map by Norman Einstein.

PRAYER ALERT: On Friday May 29 Thailand hosted a meeting in Bangkok of representatives of 17 countries. All of them are affected in some way by increasing waves of migrating Rohingya Muslims. Until May, human traffickers had been extorting high fees for sea passage for thousands of Rohingya Muslims to mostly Muslim Malaysia. These Muslim migrants have been fleeing persecution from overwhelmingly Buddhist Myanmar. Just east of Myanmar, Thailand has been cracking down on human trafficking networks. So instead of bringing the Rohingya Muslims to land, human traffickers have kept tham crammed in ships on the Indian Ocean. Further crackdowns prompted traffickers to abandon their ships. Now thousands of Rohingya Muslims are adrift in the ocean without fuel, clean water and food. Thousands more are managing to find rickety vessels to take them ashore. But they have nowhere to go from there.

In Bangkok, 17 nations argued over what to do with the Rohingya Muslims. Their country of origin Myanmar agreed to participate only if the name “Rohingya” was not used in the invitation. Buddhist Myanmar calls them “Bangladeshis.” This is because the British pressured them to move from the Bangladesh section of India to Myanmar in 1826. Now both Myanmar and Bangladesh refuse to grant them citizenship. Muslim Bangladesh itself is so poverty-stricken that thousands of its migrants are joining the ranks of the stateless Rohingya Muslims.

In Myanmar the Rohingya Muslims are allowed only restricted access to education, health care and travel. They have little freedom of religion and no right to vote. Myanmar’s 2011 move to democracy actually gave Buddhist extremists more freedom to attack the Rohingya Muslims. About 140,000 of them were driven from their homes. They now live in an apartheid-type regime in crowded displacement camps.

The UN representative at the Bangkok meeting, Volker Turk, called on Myanmar to grant the Rohingya Muslims more rights leading to full citizenship. Myanmar’s representative, Htin Linn, accused him of “finger-pointing.” Later, Nobel laureates who met in Oslo, Norway, called the situation of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar “nothing less than genocide.” Myanmar’s foreign ministry in turn called that statement “unbalanced.” Myanmar maintained that it was working toward rebuilding trust between Buddhists and Muslims. Yet Buddhist extremists still warn that the Rohingya Muslims, like jihadist Muslims worldwide, want to take over country after country.

Such fears may explain why other Southeast Asian nations avoid long-term commitments to the migrants. Malaysia and Indonesia, though both are predominantly Muslim, agreed to help shelter them for only one year. Till now thousands have been exploited and abused in Malaysian jungle camps run by traffickers. Now that the traffickers are abandoning the camps, they are leaving behind mass graves. The US and the tiny Muslim African nation of Gambia have offered to take in some of the Rohingya Muslims. China has conspicuously remained silent. While expanding its military and economic influence in South Asia, China’s moral influence is still lacking. It seems that the Rohingya Muslims are hot potatoes which only God can handle.

PRAY WITH US: Father God, You live in a high and holy place. But we thank You that Your Holy Spirit was upon Jesus on the earth. We thank You for sending the same Spirit on Your people. Move us to preach good news to the poor in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Move us to heal the brokenhearted. Move us to proclaim freedom for the captives. Move us to find homes for the refugees. Move on us with such power that many jihadists will be shamed.

But for those who continue to kill, steal and destroy, destroy their works instead. Unmask them as the works of the devil. Expose the lone wolves in sheep’s clothing. Sabotage the Trojan horses. Scatter those who follow jihad. Protect Rome, Italy, Europe and all their targets from their designs. Make their paths narrow and pointed to You. Convict human traffickers and smugglers of their sin and Your righteousness. Where greed and violence once abounded, let grace and peace abound.

We know that You will do this when You come with Your kingdom. But You told us to pray that Your kingdom would come now. Let Your will be done as it is in heaven. For to You, and not Allah or Buddha, is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. In Jesus’ name, amen.

BPN articles related to Rohingya Muslims

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Related sources for Rohingya Muslims.

Q&A on origins of Rohingya conflict and why it persists

Myanmar warns against ‘finger pointing’ at migrant meeting

Burma rejects ‘unbalanced’ Rohingya remarks by Nobel prize winners

Rohingya Muslims have nowhere to go.

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