Alliance for Rohingya Holds Inter-Faith Fundraiser
On Sunday afternoon, December 10th, we joined at least several hundred people at the La Villa Banquet Center on Brookpark Road to attend an inter-faith fundraiser put on hosted by the "Alliance for Rohingya" to raise funds the continue the medical relief provided by "Doctors Without Borders" for the Rohingya people who are experiencing atrocities in Myanmar/Burma from where they are fleeing and unsafe conditions in the refugee camps in Bangladesh where they are residing.
Instrumental in organizing this happening were the "Salaam Cleveland" and "Refugee Response" so we were addressed respectively by both Mr. Arshan Kahlid and Mr. Patrick Kearns representing those organizations. Above all, what was stressed on this day was the need for everyone there to work together to address this issue of human suffering so Mr. Kahlid encouraged us to leave our individual arrogance outside and get in touch with our humility in order to form a successful coalition while Mr. Kearns said, "we come together here today to bear witness and give aid to the Rohingya people. We also come here together today to begin to know each other. In the words of one of my personal heroes, Father Greg Boyle, 'there is no them and us. There is only us.'"
As the notes given to us by "Doctors Without Borders" read, "not recognized as citizens of Myanmar, the Rohingya people are an ethnic and religious minority who have suffered relentless persecution for many years. Since the 1970's, hundreds of thousands of the Rohingya have left Myanmar for Bangladesh, Pakistan, Thailand and elsewhere....In recent months, the Rohingya people of Myanmar have once again been subjected to attacks, with reports of entire villages burned to the ground and horrific violence, including targeting of civilians and rape. The violence has prompted more than 620,000 people to flee to Bangladesh since August 25-the largest ever exodus of Rohingya-creating a massive humanitarian crisis."
For a more detail account of who the Rohingya people are and what is taking place please see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/rohingya_people
Indeed Ms. Aerlyn Pfeil, a certified professional midwife and sexual violence program consultant, testified as to the very unhealthy and often dangerous conditions in the refugee camp in the Cox's Bazar district of Bangladesh. At least 65% of those residing there are women and girls and there have been at least 100 cases of rape recorded since August 25th. Slides were shown that perfectly backed up what Ms. Pfeil was saying.
She was further complemented by Imam Malik Mujahid in his keynote address. Imam Mujahid had recently returned from Myanmar and had personally seen the results of the discrimination and physical violence suffered by the Rohingya people. A terrible example is the fact that 288 villages have been burned in just 30 days and that rape is being used as a weapon. What's more, Imam Mujahid believes that an excellent case for genocide can be made and he is backed in this claim by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, seven Noble Peace Laureates, and seven judges of an international tribunal organized by the Burma Task Force of which he is a member.
What the Burma Task Force is demanding is that the atrocities be termed "genocide" in order that the genocide treaty be invoked; a safe zone be established for the Rohingya inside Burma with UN peacekeepers; sanctions be put on Burma until the genocide stops; and that food, shelter and medicine be airlifted to Bangladesh.
As for its efforts and those involved with "Doctors Without Borders", Imam Mujahid termed them "angels of life" which is a view echoed by our friend Dr. Mansoor Ahmed who is very acquainted with their work and believes them worthy of our full moral and financial support.
We were very impressed by the number of diverse groups who had purchased tables at this event and just some of them were the "Al-Ihsan School", "Refugee Services Collaborative", "Islamic Society of Akron and Kent"; the "Turkish Center", "Anse Chesed Fairmont Temple", "Refugee Response", "MACE Islamic Center", "Park Synagogue", "West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church", "St. Noel's Church", "First Cleveland Mosque", "Catholic Diocese of Cleveland", "Unity Center", "Rocky River United Methodist Church", the "Chagrin Valley Islamic Center", and "Margaret W. Wong & Associates" where we sat with our colleague, Mr. George Koussa while Mr. Francis Fungsang sat nearby.
We want to credit other people who eloquently spoke here at this time which included Mr. Murat Gurer (who acted as emcee), Mr. John Ryan who read a letter of support from U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, Imam Musa Sugapong, Ms. April Stoltz, Dr. Aasia Syed, and poetess Ms. Fatima Shendy.
For us one of the highlights occurred when the leaders of different faiths came together to issue an inter-faith statement on behalf of the Rohingya people. These leaders were Rabbi Joshua Caruso, Rabbi Enid Lader, Father Joe Hilinski, Reverend Chris Long, and Imam Musa Sugapong.
In part this statement read:
"As Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and as global citizens of this earth, we cannot remain silent while senseless acts of torture and brutality continue. We must act now to ensure the safety and survival of the Rohingya people. We, religious and organizational leaders in Northeast Ohio, support the Alliance for Rohingya in Cleveland and call upon the United State Congress to authorize and release desperately needed assistance to the refugees. Moreover, we implore our government to hold accountable for human rights abuses by passing the Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017. Even though we may practice differences in our faith traditions we know that in common fellowship we are stronger together. May the day come when our brothers and sisters, all made in the image of God, are viewed as worthy of redemption in a world desperate for healing."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC