The Rohingya crisis has now spilled across several national boundaries to cause unrest in Sri Lanka as well and has once again called into question the true religious and human values that we claim to profess as Sri Lankans.
The conflict between the Myanmar state and the Rohingaya Muslim community in what is now called Rakhine State is not recent but goes back to that country’s independence in 1947. As with many long unresolved issues, it has been exploited by certain extremist groups and has recently taken a violent turn. However this should not blind us to the grave humanitarian crisis being faced by this ‘stateless’ community who Myanmar insists are not citizens of that country, although living there for many hundreds of years.
Several groups of refugees have been picked up in the Eastern seas by the Sri Lanka Navy over the past several years, housed at the Mirihana Centre and subsequently re-settled elsewhere. It was therefore very distressing to read about the alleged rape of a young Rohingya girl by a Police officer at Mirihana and the mob attack on a UNHCR safe house where some refugees had been sheltered.
The Church believes that all human beings whatever their ethnicity, religion or social status are made in the image of the divine. It strongly condemns acts of violence against all persons whatever their origins and legal standing, including those who flee violence in their own places of residence here or abroad and seek temporary refuge. It is our sacred duty, whatever our religion to provide assistance and care to those who suffer or are in need. This is the noble truth that all our religions teach us.
I commend the quick and strong reaction of the government to the recent incidents and urge the authorities to give protection to all Rohingya refugees in our country, in line with our own values of hospitality to the stranger and our obligations as a member of the world community.
Rt. Revd. Dhiloraj Cangasabey
The Bishop of Colombo
Church of Ceylon, Diocese of Colombo
(Cover Image Source : CNN)