Uniting Church in Australia President Stuart McMillan has urged the Australian Government to take a lead in efforts to end the brutal violence against the Rohingya people in Myanmar.
“The Australian Government must urgently work alongside the international community to halt what is justifiably being described as the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority by military forces,” Mr McMillan said.
Mr McMillan lamented reports of entire villages being burnt down and the shooting of civilians who were fleeing the latest attacks in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
In February, a United Nations report found human rights violations against the Rohingya population could amount to crimes against humanity, and documented witness reports of gang rape, killings, including the killing of babies and children and brutal beatings.
About 1.1 million, mostly Muslim, Rohingya live in Rakhine and they have long been the targets of violence and human rights abuses.
They are not recognised as citizens in Myanmar and their rights to marry, study, travel and access health services are restricted.
The latest military operation follows a series of insurgent attacks on police and military posts in Rakhine on 25 August.
Since then more than a quarter of a million Rohingya refugees have fled to the Bangladesh border.
“We are thankful to the Australian Government for the announcement of $5 million in aid to respond to the crisis which will go towards much needed emergency assistance in the region,” Mr McMillan said.
“We encourage the Government to provide this and any further assistance it can to ensure that those fleeing this tragic situation have access to food, shelter and security for as long as is necessary.
“I echo calls from the Grand Mufti of Australia Dr Ibhahim Abu Mohammed for the Government to allocate a new quota for the arrival of Rohingya refugees into Australia.
“Australia must do whatever we can to support those who have fled and who cannot return home.
“I call on Uniting Church members to pray for our Rohingya brothers and sisters who are suffering and mourning the loss of lives.
“May peace prevail and replace the hate and violence.”
Originally published on the Uniting Church Assembly website.