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Rohingya Ethnic Group in Myanmar are Targets of Ethnic Cleansing, depicts US Government

The US government stated that abuses directed at the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar amount to ethnic cleansing

Rohingyas are targets of ethnic cleansing. Wikimedia.

Washington, Nov 23: The US government said on Wednesday that abuses directed at the Rohingya ethnic group in Myanmar amount to ethnic cleansing.

“After a careful and thorough analysis of available facts, it is clear that the situation in northern Rakhine state constitutes ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement, Efe news agency reported.

Despite expressing concern about the plight of the Rohingya, Washington has declined until now to ascribe their suffering to a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The statement follows a visit last week to Myanmar by Tillerson, who met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and the head of the armed forces, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

The country’s “government and security forces must respect the human rights of all persons within its borders, and hold accountable those who fail to do so,” the secretary said Wednesday.

“The United States continues to support a credible, independent investigation to further determine all facts on the ground to aid in these processes of accountability,” he said.

More than 600,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a military operation against the mainly Muslim minority group following the deaths of a dozen members of the security forces in Aug. 25 attacks by a group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

State Department officials said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters that President Donald Trump’s administration is weighing the idea of imposing sanctions on specific individuals in Myanmar found responsible for what they described as “organised and planned” ethnic cleansing.

Senior officials of Myanmar and Bangladesh began talks Wednesday on a plan to repatriate the roughly 622,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi territory.

In a report presented Tuesday in Bangkok, Amnesty International accused Myanmar of subjecting the Rohingya to a system of “institutional” discrimination tantamount to apartheid. (IANS)

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Sudanese Refugee Freed by Congressman of US, Finds New Life in US with Family

Abduraheem says his work was spreading the gospel; the Sudanese government accused him of espionage, and he was detained along with two other pastors in December 2015.

Pastor Hassan AbduraheeN
Pastor Hassan Abduraheem, second from left, is shown in prison of refugees in Sudan. VOA.

Six weeks after arriving in the United States, Hassan Abduraheem takes a seat in the back pew of Tar Wallet Baptist Church. Tucked into the woods along a country road in rural Virginia, the church holds about 50 worshippers.

On this cold November Sunday, Abduraheem and his family of eight noticeably increase the congregation’s size. They do their best to follow the unfamiliar English of the old Baptist hymns, which are very familiar to their new neighbors. And they share the hymns from their former home — Sudan.

Standing in a single line in front of the altar, the family fills the church with Arabic song.

“Unbelievable,” Abduraheem says repeatedly, as he describes his journey from a crowded prison cell in Sudan to a fixed-up house on the farm of his new pastor. “Unbelievable” seems like the only word that could describe the turn his life took, thanks to a Facebook post and a U.S. congressman.

Abduraheem’s work as a former pastor is not outlawed in his native Sudan, but Christians are a minority in a diverse country that has suffered through multiple civil wars. According to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, there has been “an escalation in the Sudanese government’s persecution of Christians,” since the 2011 secession of South Sudan.

Abduraheem says his work was spreading the gospel; the Sudanese government accused him of espionage, and he was detained along with two other pastors in December 2015.

“The first day when they took us to the prison, they beat us,” he says softly.

Abduraheem was shifted from prison to prison. For five months, he wore the same clothes he was wearing when he was arrested. His eyes became damaged from the harsh prison light. Yet, despite constant interrogations, just two meals of beans a day and a tiny cell with barely enough room to sleep, he says the worst part of prison was not knowing.

“It was a very hard time for me, thinking of my family, because I [didn’t] know anything about them,” he told VOA in his first media interview in the United States.

But even after numerous delays to his trial and an eventual 12-year prison sentence, he couldn’t shake a sense of faith.

“No one told me, but I had the peace that something [was] going [on] outside,” Abduraheem says.

An enormous effort

Far away from Sudan, a Facebook post telling Abduraheem’s story reached just the right person.

“I didn’t know any better, so I got in my car and drove to the Sudanese Embassy and asked to speak with the ambassador,” Representative Tom Garrett, a Republican in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, told VOA. Garrett first saw the story on the Facebook page for Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization whose African regional director was imprisoned with Abduraheem.

It was the first time a member of Congress had spoken to the Sudanese government in 10 years, according to Garrett’s office.

After thousands of messages, hundreds of work hours and a trip to Sudan, Garrett collaborated with nongovernmental organizations to free Abduraheem in May 2017. The congressman also worked to secure humanitarian parole status to bring the pastor and his family to the United States.

“I commend the Sudanese government to the extent they were willing to acknowledge that mistakes have been made in the past, and there’s a need to reassess how religious minorities are treated. That’s progress,” says Garrett, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

It’s also an opportunity to advance the relationship between the United States and Sudan, he adds.

“As a result of sanctions dating back to the nineties, Sudan is eager to distance itself from a dark past,” he said in a statement.

Sudanese Refugees
Congressman Thomas Garrett, from left, meets with Pastor Hassan Abduraheem, another Sudanese pastor, Robert Johansen, Adburaheem’s new pastor at Tar Wallet Baptist Church. VOA.

Building a new life

Abduraheem and his family visited the congressman in Washington, D.C., last month to see where their life in the U.S. became possible. While it was their first time in the American city, it also was a new experience for their congressman.

“You can love a bill, you can believe in a bill, you can advocate on behalf of a bill, but you can’t say a prayer with a bill, have dinner with a bill, shake hands with a bill. It was sort of surreal,” Garrett says of meeting Abduraheem at the airport.

Five churches in Garrett’s district banded together to fix up a home for the family, launching a GoFundMe page to pay for food, clothing and other expenses while the family waits for work authorizations. In the meantime, family members have been adjusting to the incredible change of leaving Sudan to build a life in America.

For them, everything is new — from discovering constant running hot water to buying winter coats for the snow they will soon see for the first time. But those immense changes are grounded by Abduraheem’s certainty.

“Even though it is hard for us to leave our country, I think it is also better,” Abduraheem says of his family. “I don’t want them to grow there and go through a lot of difficulties like I went through it. Here, I know they can have a chance.” (VOA)

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Las Vegas Massacre Begs the Question: Who Regulates Gun Selling?

Lass Vegas massacre
Las Vegas Metro Police and medical workers stage in the intersection of Tropicana Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard South after a mass shooting at a music festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada, Oct. 1, 2017. VOA
  • By Salil Gewali

Oct 08, 2017: Money can do any harmful thing. Yes, now it seems that one can buy lethal weapons as easily as he buys his bread and butter from a store and the recent las vegas massacre proves this. How many have such violent cases happened in a couple of years? They are countless. They all have instantly extinguished the lives of endless innocent people. Sometimes Mississippi, Newtown, Texas, Las Vegas, and sometimes France, Kuwait, Manchester, Landon Bridge, Lahore…! In each case, if we go deeper, the big boss America is directly or indirectly responsible.

Well, as to the rise of gun culture in the USA, I totally blame its Government. The very recent Las Vegas massacre shocked the entire the world. How can the US Government allow Tom, Dick, and Harry to purchase the weapons? The police have found a stockpile of arsenal from the possession of perpetrator Stephen Paddock who killed 59 people, leaving 527 wounded. How did he procure this all deadly stuff? And what had stopped the government from totally banning gun selling in any manners in the wake of the cruel instances of shootings at various spots? Small kids are shooting themselves, schoolboys shooting their classmates for fun, sons gunning down fathers and mothers in a rage, wives shooting their hubbies over petty issues.

Las Vegas Massacre
Assault weapons and handguns are seen for sale at Capitol City Arms Supply in Springfield. VOA

Also Read: Las Vegas Mass Shooting Reignites Gun Debate in US Congress 

This is how the most advanced country in the world is now virtually reeling from a stream of horrific tragedies. Are not the leaders and business houses insanely stupid who all have been resisting the gun control legislation? They have not realized yet the “evil” also roars from gun barrels. Bluntly speaking, can these leaders give sharp daggers to their own kids? It is exactly like that. People may have grown up but their minds are cluttered with gory thoughts and sadism. And, the results are nowhere to make the world shudder with fear and anguish.

One wonders, how much more such dangerous tragedies should strike the mankind before the leaders come to sense and then act sensibly. No one should gamble with the life of the innocent. Explosive America cannot hit the jackpot for the humanity.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali

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Hindus Massacred in Myanmar shows how Religious Persecution is Practiced in Muslim Dominant Regions

The large cohorts of writers or propagandists are now finding reasons and means under the sky to gloss over the criminalities of radicalized Rohingyas. How could we close our eyes of the sensibility that the people whose hands are stained with the blood of the Hindus Massacred in Rakhine, and the psyche overwhelmed with the hatred for others will not pose a serious security threat to India?

Hindu villagers react as they identify the bodies of their relatives found in a mass in the north of Myanmar's Rakhine state
Hindu villagers react as they identify the bodies of their relatives found in a mass grave in Rakhine state of Myanmar. voa

– Salil Gewali

A profuse amount of tears that certain people shed for only a certain community makes us more apprehensive than appreciative. Yes, this group of people just remains silent at the suffering of certain others – even though it is against the call of humanity. And, some others just pretentiously show a token of concern just to hide from the public what they truly are.

Many intellectuals almost lost their sanity and began to beat their breasts when the BJP, only to make good their election manifesto, proposed to give shelters to the “aggrieved Hindus” of Bangladesh. It was a humane act keeping in view the fact that Hindus have for ages been inhumanely tortured and murdered by the majority in other countries.

The sharp decline in the population in the past few decades reveals that there must have been hard religious persecution against the Hindu in Bangladesh. But very sadly, the Hindus massacred in our immediate neighbouring state usually never evoke a bit of sympathy of our leaders, nor of so-called elites, and the media.

A Hindu woman in Myanmar. Wikimedia

Many such instances of the persecution not even get mentioned in the Indian news media. We only get to hear that sad news from the far-off BBC, ‘The Guardian’ or ‘Huffington Post’, or from our FB friends abroad.

Tulsi Gibbered, the US member of the Democratic Party, raised this issue of religious prosecution in Bangladesh too many times but it was not considered newsworthy or discussed at all by the mainstream media of India.

Behold, this very group with devious agenda now rather want to welcome Rohingyas of Myanmar to India. Some are even pretentiously digging into the magnanimity of Hindu ethos and proudly quote Swami Vivekananda, “The Rohingyas conundrum” (ST, 28th Sept). Some others insidiously play the part of propagandists through their regular letters and articles to drive home the point.

No wonder, for some political leaders the mass exodus of Rohingyas from the Rakhine province of Myanmar has come as a windfall.  So, they are rolling out the red-carpet and providing the citizenship underhand. Indeed, it’s always one’s greatness to soothe one’s painful sore. India has poured out its kindness on our Tibetan refugees for which they always express their heartfelt gratitude in return.

But this time with Rohingyas I am quite sceptical. Instead of gratitude, we might receive a barrage of bullets in due course of time. Many pockets of West Bengal have already witnessed such instances of ingratitude.

But our fellow friend from Kolkata never discusses that. Can one guarantees that those Rohingyas, who are responsible for Hindus massacred in Rakhine also abducted and forced many to convert at a gunpoint, will not be the cause of nightmares for Indians in future? Three mass graves of Hindus in Rakhine gave a new turn to the sorrowful saga of deported refugees from Myanmar? This sacred land of India has long been battered by many subversive forces, from outside and within.

Hindu Villages burned in myanmar
Houses are on fire in northern Rakhine state, Myanmar. (source: VOA)

I am afraid, these large cohorts of writers or propagandists are now finding reasons and means under the sky to gloss over the criminalities of radicalized Rohingyas.

I further argue, how we could close the eyes of the sensibility that the people whose hands are stained with the blood of the Hindus Massacred in Rakhine, and the psyche overwhelmed with the hatred for others will not pose a serious security threat to India?

True, had it not been “indoctrination of hate” against others, as unearthed and noticed in several instances across the world already, the issue of refugees’ resettlement would have been pretty different, and charitably pleasant too, be it Rohingyan or Syrian… The naive and heartlessly deported population would have obeyed “their own instinct” and would have “loved their neighbors” in gratitude who offered them shelters – irrespective of faiths and nationalities of the benevolent!

One does not disagree that this world is “one home” in which we all should live together as the children of one Almighty. This is the very fundamental basis of India’s ethos and one of its principle spiritual teachings. So, in view of the distress of our fellow brothers, how badly one wishes that we citizens of this planet hummed in one rhyme that we have “several paths” to one Almighty. Then this Earth would have looked like a lush landscape with varied colors of peaceful peoples living in perfect harmony. But, this never has happened. What’s too lamentable is that in this age of advanced science each individual faith still claims its “exclusivity” to reach the doorway to heaven.

The rational approaches to God are just pooh-poohed. Has this “exclusivity to meet God” through “ONLY ONE PATH” not taken the toll on the whole edifice of the humanity? Has it not literally demolished the possibility of the peaceful co-existence and mutual respect?

Thus, now one just become too apprehensive even if we want to exercise our magnanimity because the religions themselves are playing a foul game. Lastly, the history warns us that the genuine show of compassion and love has unmistakably met with enmity, intolerance, and bloodshed. Shall we still import trouble and bring misery to the people here?

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali