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The Rohingya are the World’s Most Persecuted Minority

Have you heard of the Rohingya? If you’re like most Americans, probably not, and that’s understandable. There are so many loud voices competing for our attention everyday, that the quiet voices are often drowned out. And unfortunately, the voice of refugees is too often silent.

The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim population in Myanmar that many consider to be, “the world’s most persecuted minority.” Nearly the entire Rohingya population live in Rahkine, the country’s western coastal state. Despite living in Myanmar for centuries, the Rohingya are not recognized as one of the country’s official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship for decades. They enjoy little protection and must get the government’s permission before leaving their home state.

After an outbreak of violence in late 2016, the government conducted a brutal crackdown against the Rohingya by destroying homes and villages and killing an unknown number of people. Government troops stand accused of numerous human rights abuses in the process, and some are accusing Myanmar of conducting an ethnic cleansing campaign. To escape the violence, nearly 500,000 Rohingya have fled to refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh. By some estimates, 60% of Rohingya villages within Myanmar are completely abandoned. This is a desperate group of stateless people who need the world’s help.

How Do I Learn More?

The podcast Pod Save the World recently aired an episode dedicated to the Rohingya crisis where the host – former President Obama National Security Spokesman Tommy Vietor – interviewed The Nexus Fund Executive Director Sally Smith and New York Times columnist Nick Kristof. Together they provide a succinct overview of the Rohingya’s plight and offer a few suggestions for how people can help. Click the link below to listen:

“The Pie Isn’t Big Enough”

At the end of the episode (22 minute mark), Smith outlines three ways the average person can take action to help the Rohingya. The first is knowledge, which is simply learning about what the Rohingya are facing. Second is social, which means sharing your knowledge with your circle so that awareness increases. And the third is time and money. While most people can’t fly to Bangladesh to volunteer, money is desperately needed to help feed this huge group of refugees. But so far, that isn’t happening. Smith refers to the Rohingya as an “orphan cause” as there are currently no full time donors giving to this issue, because as she says, “the pie isn’t big enough.” In other words, there isn’t enough money to go around.

This is Why We Exist

Smith didn’t know it, but her closing statement perfectly articulates GroundSwell’s mission. We don’t direct existing money to nonprofits or redirect funds from one cause to another. Instead, we generate brand new sources of money that will fund the kind of people and organizations that would help the Rohingya. Our mission is to harness the collective power of commerce to add extra good into the world. And that’s something we desperately needs. If you can afford to give money, we hope you’ll choose to support Rohingya relief efforts. Here are a few links to organizations currently working in the region:

International Rescue Committee

Save the Children

UNICEF

Doctors Without Borders 

World Food Program