When the World War II allies discovered the brutality of the German holocaust, the planet bore witness to the result of intolerance. Jews, Roma (Gypsies), gays and political nonconformists were targeted for extermination. Some, particularly at the camp called Thekla (a sub-camp of Buchenwald), were burned alive.
So, the survivors made a solemn promise, “Never Again!” To make their point even more definitive, on Dec. 9, 1948, 70 years ago this past week, the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was signed.
But they were just kidding. Genocide is happening even now. An entire race of people, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, at least those not already exterminated, are about to be placed in a death camp on an island of silt.
The island is about three hours off the mainland coast of Bangladesh. According to Public Radio International, the island is made from sea dirt that has been forming for the past 20 years. It is barren and lacks a basic infrastructure. It is also set directly in the path of yearly monsoon rains. The island was described by one refugee as a “killing field.” PRI reporter Patrick Winn described it as a place to put people you want “out of sight, out of mind.”
The Rohingya are targets of Myanmar Buddhists. Yes, these are the same Buddhists that are legendary in the Western world for their pursuit of peace through meditation and devotion to temporal messianic figures like the Dalai Lama. They are supposed to exhibit reverence for all living things, from ants to elephants. Through what they call an “Eightfold Path” they supposedly seek “nirvana,” a high internal peace. It was what drew American actor Richard Gere to study and practice the faith.
Like most religions, Buddhism is a movement devoted to benevolence and humanity. But also like most religions, in its practice by fanatics, it has fomented brutality and inhumanity. This is the case in Myanmar, where monks have organized the “Ma Ba Tha, the Organization for the Protection of Race and Religion.” Their concern is that Muslims are buying Buddhist land,
marrying Buddhist women and overtaking Buddhist society with their high birth rate. They claim their culture is “under siege” by Muslims who “live on our land, drink our water and are ungrateful to us.”
So, the Myanmar government and its religious leaders definitely dismiss and intermittently justify mass killings, burning babies alive and mutilating their mothers. According to a report last week released by the U.S.-based Public International Law and Policy Group, “The goal of (Myanmar) was not just to expel, but also to exterminate the Rohingyas.”
And the world response is just as shocking. Bangladesh, the refuge to which the Rohingyas turned, with the tacit approval of the United Nations, is about to place the survivors on an uninhabited island where they will likely die from weather, disease and other “natural causes.”
And what is the American reaction?
A million Rohingyas are now less important than Jamal Khashoggi, a single Saudi newspaper columnist who died in Turkey. Americans are more concerned with Donald Trump’s mistresses than dead and mutilated Rohingya children.
By the time this column is read or shortly thereafter, the U.S. government may shut down over whether economic refugees from Central America should be allowed to apply for political asylum. Meanwhile, Rohingya women are having their unborn babies cut from their wombs and live children beheaded. The Bangladeshi response to the Rohingyas’ petition for asylum is a slightly slower death.
And, Americans are offering them less. The United States is consumed with inattention while the next genocidal cancer metastasizes on the planet.
During this holy season of peace and light, we should be aware that sooner or later a messiah will come (or return) to judge us all. That holy figure will not just inquire about what we did to avenge the crimes of the Nazis. That Holy One will also ask about the “killing fields” of Cambodia, the brutality of Rwanda, and the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo.
So, after sipping our eggnog, savoring our latkes and arguing about the sexual proclivity of the president’s porn star, we should all consider how we will answer this further inquiry. “Did we as Christians and Jews create ‘Peace on Earth’ for the Rohingya Muslims?”
Contact Robert M. Levy at Law52@Prodigy.net.