Saving the Rohingya: Let love prevail, not chauvinism, not racism

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Accept these refugees, accommodate them and provide them with basic needs: foods, shelter and medical attention as an immediate response, urges Barathi Selvam.

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.” – Ernesto Che Guevara.

As I was writing an assignment based on Rohingya refugees for a subject called International Reporting recently, my attention was drawn to a news report about Rohingya refugees left stranded at sea.

As a typical member of Gen Y, I chose to read the title of the report and skimmed through the rest without even realising the seriousness of the issue. A day later, I saw my Facebook newsfeed flooded with plenty of caring and concerned voices urging that the Rohingya boat people be saved.

It took time for me to decide how I should respond to those refugees who had been refused entry into several Asean nations including ours.

Again, as a typical Gen Y human being, I chose Facebook as my medium of communication to spread an online petition and voice my disappointment via my status messages.

Then, on second thoughts, I wondered whether what I was doing was enough to help those poor brothers and sisters, starving under the blazing sun and freezing in the rain. Here I was, quite quite composed and relaxed, just hoping that the signed petition would reach the ears of our beloved authorities.

Writing has been the best way to disclose my agony, grief, disappointment and embarrassment over their cold-blooded refusal to accept the refugees. The initial responses from Asean nations, particularly Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, towards the Rohingya refugees were the most inhuman and cruelest one could imagine.

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I found it highly shameful that my fellow brothers and sisters were turned away from entering these countries.
(Thankfully, good sense has prevailed and they have since relented and allowed the refugees a safe haven, at least temporarily.)

The Rohingya, a minority group in Myanmar, have been victims of selective persecution by ethnic chauvinists, who discriminate and oppress the minorities. That these minorities are abused, harassed, violated in terms of human rights, and brutally tortured due to differences of ethnicity is ridiculous and demonic.

Historically, ethnic cleansing is something that has happened since the fascist regime of Adolf Hitler in Germany; more recently, signs of this can be found in a couple of Asian nations. It is not something that dropped from sky into our backyard only yesterday.

Obsession with race or ethnicity, even religion has resulted in distressing episodes in history, right up to this day. But what bothers me is the lack of action taken to eradicate such inhuman acts which have cost the loss of many innocent lives.

Both religious and scientific evolutionary theory believe and prove respectively that all humans come from the same roots. Whether we are descendants of Adam and Eve or the result of an evolutionary process from apes to homo sapiens, we are related to one another as a family.

We do not have to learn rocket science technology to help those in dire need; those who are stranded, left helpless, deprived of food and medical attentions; those who are discriminated, oppressed and marginalised; and obviously those in our larger family who are refugees.

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Lack of love and humanity is a serious threat to humankind. Malaysia, as a country which is supposed to practise democracy, should open its arms to welcome refugees. We should offer a helping hand to wipe their tears away, a shoulder for them to lean on. Chasing them away would be the worst action we could take and would spoil the image of our nation internationally.

All we need to be is a nation which helps fellow human beings, we do not want to be a nation known to be wealthy but cruel, which refuses to take care of those in need.

People around the world should remember that, when a government fails to advocate humanity for its own citizens or people across borders, it is the great responsibility of the masses to remind them that the government has been chosen to care for the people.

I won’t ridicule or undermine the power of Facebook as a medium to empower the people; how it was used in the Arab Spring is still fresh in my mind.

It is not too late to urge our government and those of neighbouring countries that had been chasing away stranded refugee families to accept these refugees, accommodate them and provide them with basic needs: foods, shelter and medical attention as an immediate response. (These governments have since responded positively.)

Let love prevail, not bureaucracy, not chauvinism, not racism and absolutely not ethnic cleansing!

Barathi Selvam, an undergraduate student majoring in journalism at a local university, is just a normal teenager enraged with the social injustices he sees around him. He hopes to use writing as a medium to advocate for anyone who is discriminated and oppressed and to empower the marginalised.

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