By Sameer Mansour
Attendees hold signs on the intersection of Poplar & Highland.
“Pray for Burma."
“Help the People of Burma."
An interfaith vigil organized by Lina Dweik and supported by 901 Ummah was set up to raise awareness on the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims on Saturday night at the intersection of Poplar & Highland. People of different faiths and backgrounds gathered holding signs, passing out flyers, and giving words of wisdom to each other and those who passed by at the busy intersection.
“I was watching tv and saw a clip of people from Burma and I could not stand the sight, having kids myself it was just too hard to look at, and I knew something had to be done, no matter how small,” said Dweik when asked on what motivated her to hold the vigil.
These aren’t hashtags or phrases you see or hear too often unless we hear it in the duas during Ramadan or by the Imam during the Jummah Khutbah. Even then most aren’t really sure of the situation the Rohingya are facing. It hasn’t been until the most recent news cycle that the massacre happening in Burma got a little bit of attention, definitely not enough as the crisis has been ongoing for the past 4-5 years and increasingly getting worse.
“We’ve been to women’s march together and went to an immigration march together," said attendee Mary Thomas. "I just feel like it’s my duty to stand with them, stand up for justice, and stand up for prejudice. When I heard about this, I’d only seen a few things about it and just knowing that being a person in a community that generally is concerned with social justice issues and having not heard much about it that this would be beneficial to get the word out and raise awareness."
For the readers unbeknownst to the genocide occurring an ocean away, Burma is the poorest nation in South Asia, located between Bangladesh, India and China. After a coup in 1982, the nation was ruled by a racist military government for 30 years until a period of reform following civil unrest. The transitional government has continued harsh restrictions on certain ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Rohingya Muslims, who live mainly in the Northwestern state of Rakhine.
“It’s a sad situation and I believe we have to support one another out," said attendee Jose Salazar. "We know there’s different kinds of oppression. The Mexicans went through genocide in our history so we know how it feels to go through that. It’s always good to support each other out and create that awareness."
That’s the quick history and for the past few years Rohingya Muslims, who make up 7% of the population, have been persecuted, raped, murdered, burned and left without a country to call their own. They have no country to go to and are denied legal status in the country they should belong to. They are the “World’s Most Persecuted Minority” and the world doesn’t even know it. However some Memphians decided it was time to change that.
"The Prophet Muhammad (SAS) has told us in a hadith that the parable of Muslims in their humanity and their love for each other is like their whole body," said attendee Nabil Bayakly. "If one organ is damaged, one organ is hurt, the rest of the organs come to its help. As Muslims we are really one body, if one part of us is suffering we should all come out and help."
The goal of the vigil was to raise awareness and with the interfaith crowd it attracted, the honks of support, and the media coverage from Fox 13 it achieved just that.