I remember one balmy day when my family and I went to this restaurant in Kampung Attap for lunch and one lady came to us with her tot on the shoulder asking for food. I could tell that they are Burmese, to be specific Rohingya people. They seemed helpless and hungry so we invited them to have lunch together but the mother refused. She wanted some money to buy foods and she will bring back the foods to the shelter where the other three kids were waiting and staying temporarily. So I assisted her to the foods counter and let her chose what she wanted. It was really heartbreaking to see a mountain of rice only swamp with plain watery curry and divided to four portions. I did the calculation myself and asked her whether it was enough for the family. She answered, “Alhamdulillah.” At the cashier where I was paying for the foods, she suddenly removed her bracelet and put it into my palm. “Terima kasih.” I was shocked and returned it back to her. “Tak perlu. Saya sedekah.” I could see the tears in her eyes so I hugged her so tight and kissed the baby. She smiled to me and left.
One of the most frustrating things for the people of Rohingya is that no one seems to care for them, and some who do care seem to be ineffectual. These persecuted minorities of Burma continue to suffer in ways unimaginable to civilized minds. Rohingyas are known as the new ‘boat people’. They are denied citizenship in the land of their birth so they choose to undertake a terrifying journey across the high seas in search of a new home.
Today, there are an estimated one million Rohingyas in Burma and another one million in the Diaspora. Some 500 thousand are in Saudi Arabia, and another 400 in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Malaysia is a home to 30 thousand people. Some remains as the unwanted and barely tolerated guests of increasingly impatient hosts.
Rohingyas in Burma are deeply pious Muslims, living as a minority in a military state with a Buddhist majority. Rohingyas in Bangladesh reported to have been treated badly by many Bangladeshis. The poorest people in the world have found someone poorer to shit upon eh? Such is the way of mankind, expressing the joy of being better than others with arrogance and spite. Sick. Some Rohingyas made their journey to Makkah, mostly on foot, all the way across Bangladesh and northern India, to Karachi and finally Makkah.
These people are remained, to raise children born without papers, in houses on land without titles, with businesses not registered in their names.
I am not sure how do they think of Malaysia so far. Whether Malaysians have been really or moderate nice to them or not been nice at all. However I once read that our government went on a blitz, coming on hard to say that Rohingyas would not affect our country too badly. However in Malaysia, the Rohingya refugee population is the largest in South East Asia. A number of NGOs work with the Rohingya community, establishing numerous welfare schools and madrasas. Alhamdulillah.
I am writing this in tears. The face of the Rohingya mother is so fresh in my memory and each time I think about her, I somehow feel a huge responsibility on my shoulder to help but I am not sure how to begin with.
To the friends I know who feel disgusted with the presence of these people while you are dining, I want to say that you are no different than anyone else except you have refused to feel grateful. These Rohingyas; victims seeking refuge are don’t mind being labeled as ‘boat people’ and ‘pendatang’. They live life to the fullest with ageless spirit to be a truly free person finding their peace.
Selamat malam Rohingya, esok kan ada matahari…