Multi-faith Portland rally for the persecuted

By Faith News Note,

On a late September Sunday, Portland’s Pioneer Square filled with demonstrators protesting the brutal treatment in Southeast Asia of the Rohingya, often referred to as the most persecuted people in the world.

Who are the Rohingya? They are the 1.1 million Muslim natives of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, living in the primarily Buddhist nation of 53 million. Myanmar’s military government in 1982 recognized specific races as citizens, but not the Rohingya, who remain oppressed.

In August, Rohingya militants involved in the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army killed a dozen people during an attack on a Myanmar police post. In response, the military killed civilians and burned nearly 200 villages, forcing more than 400,000 to flee to nearby Bangladesh after what the United Nations referred to as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing, according to a Sept. 27 article in The Oregonian.

An estimated 100 Rohingya families who fled Myanmar now live in Portland, or as many as 800 Rohingya refugees, according to an estimate by Ronault “Polo” Catalani, the city’s immigrant integration policy adviser.

Assimilating in Portland hasn’t always been easy, but the Rohingya refugees are carving new lives in a new land, free from the persecution. Those rallying Sept. 24 at Pioneer Square—Muslim, Buddhist, Christian and Jewish leaders—hope to draw attention to the terror and horrific treatment endured by the Rohingya in Myanmar.

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