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Diary of a week spent with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Categories: Articles:Asylum & Refugees | Published: 26/04/2018 | Views: 484

Bishop John Arnold of Salford diocese recently returned from a trip to Bangladesh with CAFOD where he witnessed to the suffering of the Rohingya people there and saw the humanitarian work being done in the area to help these destitute refugees.  Read his daily diary of the trip here.

The time has come for another trip with Cafod, for which I feel privileged and grateful. But this trip is to be very different from anything that I have experienced with Cafod over the last ten years.
Whenever I have previously travelled with Cafod it has been to see the benefits provided to people through partnerships, where life is improving. In Zambia and Zimbabwe there were new cooperatives and farms benefitting from the provision of fresh water and specialised farming techniques. In Rwanda there was the gradual development for a generation scarred by the massacres of genocide. In Brazil there were the possibilities of employment for those occupying the empty buildings of Sao Paolo and the protection of the indigenous peoples. Even after the horrors of typhoon Hayan in the Philippines, there were the smiling faces of the resilient Filipinos glad to be re-building homes and livelihoods. The wonderful and encouraging list has grown over ten years.

But this trip promises nothing of that hope because I am going to the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who, for the moment, have no hope nor any certainty for their future. Survival is the immediate challenge.
Amnesty International describes the Rohingya as “one of the most persecuted minorities in the world”. More than one million people from the mainly-Muslim minority group lived in Myanmar at the start of 2017, with the majority in Rakhine State.
The government of Myanmar, a predominately Buddhist country, claims the Rohingya people are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh and has denied them citizenship, leaving them stateless. The Rohingya – who have their own language and culture – say they are descendants of Muslim traders who have lived in the region for generations. The systematic discrimination against the Rohingya people has left them living in deplorable conditions and segregated, with limited access to schools, healthcare and jobs, according to Amnesty.

Tensions between the minority group and the mainly Buddhist Rakhine population erupted into rioting in 2012, driving tens of thousands from their homes and into displacement camps.

The UN has described the latest mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar as “the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis” and “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
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