I just got back from Sittwe, Western Burma, where 200,000 people have been forced from their homes and currently live in make shift shacks on the coast line of the bay of Bengal. Add a cyclone to the violence that put them in these camps and you have a recipe for very vulnerable and suffering people.
Tandoli camp is separated by train tracks. On one side are approximately 5000 displaced people and on the other another 3-5000 more. We (Partners Relief & Development) helped evacuate them as cyclone Mahasen approached land, then returned them to their tent camps after the storm blew North to Bangladesh.
Many of the people we interviewed in these two sections hadn’t had food in 4 days. As “unregistered” refugees they are not able to receive food distribution from the World Food Program, because distribution is based on numbers provided by the local government. In this case, it’s the authorities themselves who are marginalizing and attempting to cleanse the Rohingya people from Arakan, or Rakhine state, so the system of delivery is broken and the UN is powerless to intervene.
Before we left the Tandoli people, we distributed 5 tons of rice so that they would have sustenance for at least a few days. These are wonderful people who bear the image of God. This is my short impromptu speech before we unloaded the truck.
Please keep in mind that some of the points I make about faith directly address the divide between Buddhists and Muslims in Burma. The killing and violence here was fueled by prejudice. This was a deliberate move to build a bridge of reconciliation and durable peace between the two religious groups. Of course, I had to throw in that I am a Christian and we also care for them and their children. Again, building peace.