Vigil for Rohingya People aims to Raise Awareness

 

The Rohingya Genocide taking place in Myanmar inspired a few dozen students at Boston University to have a vigil last Thursday, Sept. 21., on the International Day of Peace to raise awareness for the plight of the Rohingya people – considered by many to be one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.

Discrimination against Rohingya is nothing new, according to Al-Jazeera the group has been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, but recent events have caught the world’s attention. According to the Washington Post, 430,000 Rohingya have fled in the last month as soldiers and Buddhist monks have set their homes on fire.

Shmyle Ghumman (ENG’18), the president of the Islamic Society of BU, a group that was involved in organizing the vigil, discussed his reaction to the genocide and why the vigil was necessary.

“It’s obviously a pretty horrid thing going on halfway across the world and a lot of times we’re caught up in our own bubble,” said Ghumman. “No one really knows about it.”

“We have a lot of refugees being denied now from Bangladesh,” said Ghumman. “It’s almost a similarity to what’s happening in Syria. They have nowhere to go.”

Attendees held plastic electric candles as speakers led prayers and spoke passionately about the politics of the genocide during the vigil. “Death is not something that can be politicized,” said Max Davidowitz, who identified as half Burmese and stated his plans to have an event this week in the Howard Thurman Center regarding the crisis.

“This night is a solemn one, as our hearts grow heavy,” said Lul Mohamud, a junior at Boston University and a member of the Islamic Society of BU. “We stand at this vigil to honor the lives that have been taken too soon from this world and we stand to send a message of life and hope to not only our Rohingya sisters and brothers but to one another here and now.”

Mohamud asked the group to take a moment of prayer, reflection, or critical thought and think about the plight of the Rohingya, as well as saying to the group “Keep your head high and keep your voices loud.”

Although not many kept their voices loud by volunteering to  speak at the vigil, those that did continued the conversation about discrimination.

Ibrahim Rashid, a junior at BU, noted the presence of South Asians at the event, connecting the treatment of the Rohingya people to what it means to be South Asian today.

“{To be South Asian today] means we all come from families, communities that have faced migration, that have faced strife,” said Rashid. “To be South Asian today means to have a story and a history of trauma.”

Far from South Asia, the few dozen people  gathered at Marsh Plaza several thousand miles away from Myanmar and Bangladesh were focused on awareness rather than trying to directly affect the Rohingya Genocide.  The vigil’s goal of raising awareness was somewhat successful.

“I confess I was ignorant of this horrible tragedy that has taken place and I’m sorry for that,” said Raymond Bouchard, the director of Marsh Chapel. “But now that I’ve seen and now that I’ve heard, now it’s come upon me to do something.”

Barbara Wilhelm, a BU alumhead of the anti-islamophobia group Jewish Voice for Peace and a member of the Boston University Students for Justice in Palestine chapter, said she was concerned about what was happening, but also that it had gone on for some time and finally gained attention, saying “there’s visibility to the horror.”

“Given that students are going to school and studying, they’re preparing for their careers, I think they have to understand what they can do,” said Barbara Wilhelm. “But I think again, anything they can do in terms of awareness, in terms of conversations.”

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