For Immediate Release
September 13, 2017
WASHINGTON – In recent weeks, more than 300,000 Rohingya people, a Muslim ethnic minority in Western Myanmar, have been forced to flee their homes to escape atrocities committed by the Myanmar military, including extrajudicial killings, rape, and the burning of homes and villages. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights called the situation “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” In response, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Emeritus of the Religious Action Center, Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy for the Union for Reform Judaism, and former United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and wider Reform Movement:
“We condemn the violence committed by the Myanmar military and militia groups against the Rohingya people in the strongest possible terms. This expulsion of people based on their ethnic or religious identity summons the darkest memories of mass atrocities. The situation is dire. We understand the enormous challenges the government faces in solidifying civilian rule and constraining the role of militant Buddhist groups in Myanmar. But the failure of the Myanmar’s government, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to unequivocally condemn and act assertively to stop the violence targeting this Muslim minority group is an abdication of moral and political responsibility that will only serve to destabilize the nation, enhance the suffering of its citizens and undercut the government’s broader efforts at reform.
“Last winter I visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. I saw how overrun the camps were with the flood of new refugees, heard first-hand from the victims of the brutal attacks, rapes and ethnic cleansing and met with the local religious leaders who were forced to watch as village mosques were destroyed and holy books burned.
“In Leviticus, we are commanded, ‘You may not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being shed’ (Leviticus 19:16). As Jews, we know all too well the price paid when good people do not act to protect the victims of discrimination, persecution and crimes against humanity. We strongly urge the UN and its member states, including the U.S. and Canada, to do all they can to stop the violence against the Rohingya people, ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need in Western Myanmar and the refugees in Bangladesh and allow for media and human rights monitors to enter and gather information in Myanmar.”
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism
, whose more than 900 congregations
across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews
, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis
, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis.
Sarah Garfinkel, West End Strategy Team