American interfaith leaders on Wednesday called upon the international community to impose full sanctions on Myanmar until it stops what they said the textbook case of genocide against Rohingyas and restore citizenship of its displaced Muslim minority people.
They also called upon the world leaders to stand in solidarity with Rohingyas and invoke the convention for the prevention and punishment of genocide to protect the Rohingyas from persecution.
At a press conference held at a city hotel after their recent visit to Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, the American Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and Muslim community leaders praised Bangladesh’s humanitarian assistance and provision of security to the Rohingyas.
They also endorsed Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s call that Rohingyas be restored to their land in Myanmar with a clear mandate for the UN to defend them and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.
A 14-member delegation of American interfaith leaders, including that of two Buddhists, two Jews, two Muslim Imams and several Christians, earlier visited the Rohingya camps and listened to Rohingya voices. The visit was arranged by ‘Interfaith Coalition to Stop Genocide in Burma’.
Upon getting back to the USA, they said, they will amplify Rohingya voices in the US Congress, administration and the civil society to mobilise public opinion across the globe to resolve the crisis and ensure safe return of Rohingyas to their mother land with security, dignity, rights and citizenship.
Speaking at the press conference, a leading Buddhist American scholar Alan Senauke said what he saw at Balukhali Rohingya camp and heard the stories of the persecuted people make his heart weep. “Violence that directed against children, women, men and the families is the worst form of cruelty. To my understanding, the murder and displacement of Rohingyas in Myanmar has nothing to do with the Buddha’s teaching.”
He also called upon the Buddhists around the world to stand with Rohingyas’ cry for safety, justice and citizenship. “We’re greatly disturbed by what many see as slander and distortion of the Buddha’s teaching.”
Alan Senauke also said the hatred, systematic persecution and ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas stand in stark contradiction to monastic percepts and Buddha’s teaching on universal morality, peace and tolerance.
He said they will create a fund in the USA to drum up support from Buddhists to stand by Rohingyas and raise voice for ensuring their security, justice and citizenship.
Rabbi David Saperstein, a Jewish leader and immediate past US Ambassador at Large for religious freedom, said, “We’ve heard the stories of mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of watching how their family members were killed in front of them, and how they faced persecution.”
The Jewish leader said they will try to encourage the American authorities and international community to take the right step so that they Rohingyas can return to their country with protection and rights, including religious freedom.
Beth Lilach, another Jewish leader and the senior director at the Holocaust Center on Long Island in New York, said the persecution of Muslims Rohingyas evolved in stage similar to the progression of Nazism suffered first by the German Jews. ‘The brutality on Rohingyas is a textbook case of genocide.”
She said the Myanmar government and military carried out the parallel Nazism by carrying out the mass rape and mass murder. “We call upon our leaders to take action against it right now.”
American Christian community leader Bob Roberts said his heart is broken over what he has seen at the Rohingya camps. “The problem is incredibly complex. The world has to be addressed it. I support your Prime Minister’s assertion that there has to be a safe zone within the Myanmar to send back Rohingyas with protection so that they don’t fear further displacement.”
He said every Bangladeshi should feel proud of providing support for Rohingyas. “We’re with you, we don’t share the same religion, but we share the same values.”
Bob Roberts said they will mobilise Christian community in the USA to help and support the Rohingyas as Bangladesh should not bear the problem alone. “This’s a global issue and world should stand with you. This is not a single faith issue, this is a multi-faith one and all should come forward to find a way to solve it.”
Imam Mohammad Maged, the chairman of the Washington-based International Interfaith Peace Corp, said the act of Myanmar government and military is a systematic killing and persecution of Rohingya people. “For me, it is genocide. Rohingyas are really very fearful of going back to Myanmar since the displacement was not happened for the first time.”
“Talking to me, they said they wouldn’t go back to be killed or to be persecuted again. They said that they won’t go back home until they’re given full citizenship and protection.”
He said it is very urgent to create a safe zone in Rakhine State protected by international peacekeepers for ensuring peace and allowing a safe and just repatriation.
“I’ll talk to Muslim community in the USA to give this voiceless people voice and mobilise them to press for resolving the issue of Rohingya. I think this situation will not change unless we work together and ensure the safety and security of the Rohingyas, and send them back home ensuring their rights and citizenship.”