Rohingya people targeted by ethnic cleansing in Myanmar take shelter in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Photo contributed

Column: Turning a blind eye has deadly consequences

Too much snow, gas prices too high, too many potholes.

These are common complaints in this part of the globe, particularly valid for people with mobility issues or those on low incomes. But for most people they pale in comparison with what some people in other parts of the world – and some in Canada – must face.

Thanks to people like Phedra Moon (Morris), for whom making a difference in the world is central to their lives, it’s more difficult to remain oblivious to the pain of others.

Moon is currently working in Bangladesh, heading up international assistance there for the Canadian government. She was back in Salmon Arm last week. The focus of aid is in Cox’s Bazar, which borders Rakhine State in Myanmar, and has seen about 700,000 Rohingya people enter since August after fleeing from the military.

Their sin? Being Muslim, according to international reports. They are the stain targeted by ethnic cleansing.

Amnesty International states that the Rohingya people have faced systematic, government-sponsored discrimination in Myanmar for decades, but it has intensified dramatically since 2012, when violence between Buddhist and Muslim communities swept Rakhine State. Yet the Rohingya have been in Myanmar for centuries.

The pictures Moon has seen drawn by children at the refugee camp are heartbreaking.

Pictures of people being shot, beaten, hanging from trees. Pictures of helicopters shooting from above. Red pencil crayon – for blood – on the human figures.

Moon says the longer the children stay at the camp and begin to feel safe, the less violent the drawings get.

She also reports that 22,000 children – well over Salmon Arm’s 17,000 population – came unaccompanied to the camp, either because they had become separated from their parents as they fled when their homes were burned to the ground, or their parents had been killed.

It’s difficult to fully comprehend the anguish.

Moon pointed out that Jan. 27 was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The words “never again” pertain to the Second World War, yet the Rohingya are being systematically slaughtered. They, of course, are not the only groups in the world targeted.

Colonialism and corporate greed leave, and have left, many victims in their wake. If not from the arrogant destruction of the environment, then from government policies. Today, dozens of First Nations communities in Canada, for instance, remain on boil water advisories and some have been for years. Hard to imagine someone waiting for years for clean water in ‘mainstream’ Canada.

Moon says she is inspired by the courage and strength of the refugees she meets, and also by Bangladesh, a country with little monetary wealth that is so generous. With that in mind, may those of us who live in peace and comfort, with access to food, water and shelter, make our voices heard and our support felt – however we choose to do that – on behalf of the many in this world who don’t.

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