The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority group (the vast majority of whom are Muslim) in the country of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. The Rohingya numbered about one million people at the beginning of 2017 and represent the largest percentage of Muslim people in Myanmar; the majority live in the Rakhine state. Since August 2017, about 655,000 Rohingya people have fled into neighboring Bangladesh to escape violent and deadly persecution in Myanmar. This includes discriminatory policies and recent violent attacks by the Myanmar military—reported rape, murder and arson. Some of the Rohingya people have also traveled by land and sea to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The United Nations’ top human rights official called what is happening to the Rohingya a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” However, Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has denied that ethnic cleansing is taking place and dismissed international criticism of her handling of the crisis. Although this crisis has intensified recently, the targeted and sometimes violent discrimination against the Rohingya has a long history.
This lesson provides an opportunity for students to learn about and develop empathy for the plight of the Rohingya people and to explore what can be done about the current situation.