Rohingya skeptical of repatriation to Myanmar

Bangladesh (MNN) — It’s been six months since a huge flux of Rohingya people fled Myanmar because of violent persecution in August 2017.

Now, hundreds of thousands of people are living in poor conditions in refugee camps in Bangladesh without enough food, water, medicine, or shelter.

Greg Kelley of World Mission shares, “The UN has their own process that they’ll do, but the need is just absolutely overwhelming. There’s only one latrine for every 100 people in these refugee camps. We’re being told that only 10 percent of the people have access to clean water.”

(Photo courtesy of World Mission via Facebook)

Diseases are a huge threat to the population, according to the World Health Organization. And as the monsoon season draws near, the United Nations also warns flash floods could sweep away the shelters and what little belongings the Rohingya have.

Skeptical of Repatriation

Bangladesh agreed to the United Nations overseeing the return of the Rohingya people but said they would not repatriate anyone against their will. According to Radio Free Asia, around 8,000 people have said they want to return. But despite the unsanitary conditions in the refugee camps, a majority of the Rohingya people don’t want to return right now.

“Eighty percent of all the refugees were women and children so this is a very vulnerable people group,” Kelley says. “As they’re going back into Myanmar, they just want guarantees. They want what any human being would want and that would be assurances of safety, protection, freedom (to the extent that it’s available), just basic human dignity rights is what they’re interested in.”

Even before the massacre in August, the Rohingya people were treated poorly in the country. Being an ethnic and religious minority, they were treated like outcasts and lived in ghetto-like areas. The Myanmar government didn’t recognize them as citizens, but wouldn’t allow them to leave the state they resided in.

“The women among the Rohingya, in many cases, are subject and exposed to the sex-trade and they’re forced into that. The men are treated [as the] equivalent of slave labor,” Kelley says.

It’s no wonder the people are still skeptical of their freedoms and safety if they were to return to Myanmar.

Kelley says they heard about families during the raid whose escape route was literally littered with danger: “On their route to Bangladesh, there were landmines being set up directly in that path, knowing that they would walk over them. People were killed.”

Doctors Without Borders estimates around 6,700 people were killed in the August attack, including at least 730 children under the age of five.

“The UN has basically declared that their exodus from Myanmar into Bangladesh is essentially ethnic cleansing,” Kelley says.

Showing Love to the Unloved

The Rohingya people have only known hate from their neighbors and those around them, something that World Mission wants to change.

World Mission is showing the Love of Christ by providing food, clean water filters, and tarps that are distributed through their national partners.

Through this love and provision, they’ve seen hearts opening to the Gospel, a remarkable thing considering that nearly 100 percent of the Rohingya population is Muslim.

(Photo courtesy of World Mission via Facebook)

“World Mission has distributed our solar-powered audio Bible because so many of the Rohingya are unable to read,” Kelley says.

“They’re just enjoying hearing stories and learning about Jesus and we’re seeing through many of these listening groups, many of them are embracing the Gospel and they’re coming to know the Lord through listening to the Treasures, and also national leaders are on the ground just loving them and being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

A World Mission Facebook post said the Gospel was shared with 600 people over one week. 300 people came to Christ and 35 Rohingya were baptized.

In many Muslim cultures, converting to another religion risks persecution. Converts are seen as betrayers to Islam and risk rejection and even death. Kelley says the people are putting everything at stake when they make this decision.

However, World Mission is seeing something different in these camps.

“What happens among cultures like the Rohingya, is when one family member comes to know the Lord, many times, they’ll ultimately bring the whole family to a place of receiving Christ.”

World Mission’s ultimate goal in helping these people come to Christ, is to mobilize them so they will share the Gospel with others around them – their friends, their families, and even their persecutors.

“So, they’re being trained even now. They’re in listening groups with the Treasure and [our] passion is to see all of the Rohingya really have an opportunity to hear about Christ.”

Respond with World Mission

You can come alongside Rohingya refugees through prayer and provision.

Pray for the safety, health, and love of the people as they continue facing poor conditions and are unsure where they will go next, or if they will return home. Pray for wisdom and peace for the Rohingya and the people in Myanmar when repatriation does begin. And pray the Rohingya will continue coming to Christ.

You can also provide food, clean water filters, and solar-powered audio Treasures through World Mission. Your tangible support will soften hardened hearts to the Gospel and show the love of Christ.