Zaid Al-Rawni, the CEO of Islamic Relief Canada speaks about his experiences during his recent visit to Myanmar
There is a point in Northern Rakhine state where the Naf river narrows and on the other side Bangladesh looks deceptively close. For days thousands of Muslims have been running to this point, some carrying all they could stuff into sacks, others only carrying their loved ones. Young children who see the fear but don’t understand it, or elderly parents who’ve lived their whole lives dreading the hate they’ve endured for so long will boil over to this. Just beyond the water, lies the end of their dread. They hide along the river bank waiting for the cover of darkness to make their escape to the relative safety of Bangladesh.
Sadly, for too many of them the morning never comes, they’ve run from their burning homes, into the unforgiving and treacherous waters. Groups of Bengali fishermen and farmers wait on the other side of the water. And the bodies come. Alone, in pairs and in groups they slowly float to the bank lifeless and still. The villagers resigned and tired, gently carry them out of the water and into their final resting place. Over and over again, the melody of the funeral prayer is called out. But no one grieves, no one cries for these nameless bodies. A woman once cherished and loved, a treasured child, an adored father all buried with only the voice of the Imam and the blowing wind bidding them farewell from their troubles in this world (to the peace of the next insha’Allah).
For those who’ve perished in this ugly chapter of history, we can only offer prayers. For the hundreds of thousands still living, there so much that must be done. There is the essential search for a long-term solution that will allow communities to live side by side without the fear and hate that has wrecked their lives. And there are the urgent basic needs that must be met.
The thousands of people I saw in Bangladesh and in Rakhine state have been left with nothing. On the road from Cox’s Bazaar, entire families cower under a tiny sheet of plastic to avoid the torrential rains. The mud slushing beneath them they can do nothing about. In their villages, food and clean drinking water were abundant, here many don’t have a penny to their name and have no idea when and where the next meal will come from.
This is the role our teams in the field will be playing over the coming weeks and months. But to do it, they need your support from Canada. I am so humbled by the generosity of our donors all across the country. You should all be very proud of the immense unity displayed as a response to this horrific emergency.
Your sisters and brothers in Myanmar know the risks they face every single day but take them willingly, in the hope that their efforts will ease the pain of a mother and her children. But there is little they can do without the effort that you all have put in. So please accept this heartfelt thank you for everything you’ve done.
CEO of Islamic Relief Canada