This land is not your land

“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man

Not if you’re a Rohingya.

“Everyone has the right to a nationality.” Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Unless you happen to be a Rohingya.

The roughly 1.2 million members of Myanmar’s minority Muslim population have not legally had a country since 1982. That’s when the government of this majority-Buddhist country enacted the Citizenship Law, denying the Rohingya the rights of citizenship it extended to 135 other national and ethic groups. Legally stateless in their own land, which they have occupied for centuries, they are becoming increasingly homeless, forced to flee by the hundreds of thousands to refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, where they struggle to survive in unimaginably difficult conditions. What is happening to them has been called ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In the name of protecting a threatened nation, Myanmar’s government declared open season on its most vulnerable people because they are “different”. Even Aung San Suu Kyi, recipient of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her courage in confronting Myanmar’s military junta, has publicly questioned the Rohyinga’s right to citizenship – that is, to a homeland.

When John McCain spoke yesterday of “some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” he was describing a danger he sees here. He could also have been talking about a nationalist tribalism that has displaced 65 million people and threatens our definition of a civilized world.

James G. Blaine

About James G. Blaine

Most of us undervalue what seem our tiny contributions to our communities and the world. As a result, we feel powerless, even victimized. But, like the butterfly effect in science, the lives we lead with our families, in our communities, and at work – all the so-called little things we do – collectively change the world. As I grow older, my ambition grows more modest but not less important: to participate fully and to contribute what I can. That’s my goal with this blog.