BURMA (January 17, 2013) – An Evangelical Covenant Church missionary says the amount of illness he has been treating in a refugee camp of 20,000 people here has been heartbreaking.
“I cannot recall ever seeing so much malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and all kinds of infectious disease,” says the missionary, who cannot be named due to security concerns. “Most of the time, there was little the team could do as they saw four children die from malnutrition and many others close to death. Yet we were also able to offer help to many who otherwise have been left to fend for themselves.”
The missionary adds, “I will always remember the faces of the crying women who had brought their children to be seen, but could not because of the large crowds.”
The camp isn’t what it initially seems. “From a distance, it looked like paradise – palm trees and the blue ocean. Yet as we got closer, the stench of human waste mingled with smoke quickly made us realize that this was not an idyllic resort town,” the missionary says. “We then saw the thousands of makeshift shelters and tents dotting the dusty roadside and even more thousands of their inhabitants milling along side.
“The Rohingya, who are Muslim, were burned and bombed out of their homes and villages, then driven into these temporary camps by the Rakhine Buddhist majority since June 2012,” the missionary reports. “More than 200,000 were living in the filth, disease, and poverty of these camps that are reminiscent of Ethiopia and the Sudan, not Southeast Asia.”
Funds from Covenant World Relief are supplying critical medications, the missionary says.
Despite the pain of seeing the suffering, the missionary says he also has been inspired. “I was amazed by the warmth, hospitality, and courage of the Rohingya even in the midst of their suffering,” he explains. “I was challenged by the love shown by some Rakhine who worked hard with us to bring aid to those who were supposed to be their enemy. I was humbled that we, a team of Christians, could pray together with Muslims for God to bring peace.”