Violent Floodwaters Rob Refugees

07/20/2018
  • AP18197146597737
    AP Photo: In this photo from June 28, 2018, a man builds a shelter for Mustawkima, a Rohingya refugee. Mustawkima sold her food rations for help building a sturdy shelter to withstand heavy rains. Monsoon season brings danger to the 900,000 refugees living on unstable hillsides.

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The third time’s a charm. Or is it? For Mustawkima, a Rohingya Refugee, time matters. Three times since arriving at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, she has had to build her family a new shelter. This mother of five young children knows the gravity of flash floods and landslides. She lost one shelter to erosion. The tarp covering her second shelter couldn’t withstand the rain. Mustawkima has traded food rations for help in building her family a third shelter. She hopes this structure is ready in time for more rain.

A monsoon is a massive seasonal wind that brings heavy rainfall. Countries like Myanmar (MEE-uhn-mar), which is located between India, China, and Bangladesh, expect annual monsoons. Rain falls with force. Floods threaten hundreds of thousands of displaced families. People are scared when it starts to rain. But not nearly as scared as they are of the military they fled from in Myanmar.

Rohingya Muslims are the most persecuted minority in the world. They are not recognized in their home country of Myanmar as an ethnic group, where the majority of citizens are Buddhist. Denied rights as citizens, they are brutally attacked. Hundreds of their villages have been destroyed. For years, Rohingya families have been robbed of their identities as citizens, as an ethnic group, and as people, created in the image of God.

A systematic campaign of violence by Myanmar’s military forces in 2017 triggered a mass exodus of roughly 900,000 Rohingya to neighboring Bangladesh. There, camps offered to refugees are sitting on crumbling, unstable, slippery land. Trees are cut down to make space for shelters. Roots are dug up for firewood. As a result, soil is eroding. The land is sliding out from under shelters. When it rains, waterfalls of mud crash down hillsides. Trees slam to the ground, damaging shelters and injuring people.

Mohamed Alom has a jagged scar on his face. While he was asleep, a tree barreled through his makeshift shelter during a landslide. It crashed into Alom, scarring his face and scaring his family. Rain is just the latest threat to these people who have been robbed of their country, their homes, and too many of their loved ones.

"In Myanmar, it's scary because there's no guarantee for our lives," says Alom, as rain begins to fall on the roof. "Here, even if there's a landslide, at least we don't have to worry about the military."

 “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”—Psalm 29:10

(AP Photo: In this photo from June 28, 2018, a man builds a shelter for Mustawkima, a Rohingya refugee. Mustawkima sold her food rations for help building a sturdy shelter to withstand heavy rains. Monsoon season brings danger to the 900,000 refugees living on unstable hillsides.)