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Urge Congress to Hold the Burmese Military Accountable for Ethnic Cleansing

Since August 2017, nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled violence and ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State, a region on the western border of Burma. The survivors made their way to refugee camps in Bangladesh, a three-day trek from their home villages, where they now face daily challenges accessing food, health care, and basic living conditions. The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority in Burma who have historically faced persecution in the region. In late 2017, the Burmese military escalated violence against the Rohingya people, including the burning of villages and mass murders of entire communities. This crisis has quickly become the world's fastest growing refugee emergency. Congress must act now to condemn the ethnic cleansing and support the survival and safety of the Rohingya people.

Background

As hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are being driven out of their villages and across the border into Bangladesh, global leaders must work to restore human rights and dignity for this stateless population. The United States has an opportunity to play a role in holding accountable the people responsible for the mass atrocities taking place in Burma as well as providing humanitarian assistance.

The Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act (S.2060) was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MD). This bipartisan bill would promote democracy and human rights in Burma, implement sanctions as accountability mechanisms for ethnic cleansing practices taking place in Burma and begin to restore human rights and dignity for ethnic minorities who are still in Burma and who have fled across borders. If passed, this bill would be a positive step towards restoring human rights for this extremely vulnerable population.

Senate leadership should bring this important bill to the floor for swift passage and implementation.


Jewish Values

As a Jewish community, we bear witness to the ongoing humanitarian crisis plaguing the Rohingya people in their quest for safety and human rights. Their persecution echoes Jewish experiences across time and place, and it compels us to take further action on what the United Nations has described as the fastest growing refugee emergency in the world. In Leviticus, we are commanded, "You may not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being shed" (Leviticus 19:16). As Jews, we know all too well the price paid when good people do not act to protect the victims of discrimination, persecution and crimes against humanity. It is our Jewish responsibility to advocate for the security and rights of the most vulnerable people and to never stay silent when crimes against humanity are unfolding right in front of us.

For More Information:

For more on this issue, visit the RAC's issue pages on refugees and international religious freedom. You can also contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Elizabeth Leff at (202) 387-2800.