Leaving Persecution Behind To Find A New Life – The Rohingya Of Canada

“Why is it that in Canada many religions can coexist but not in Burma? In my country the call to prayer is banned, religious schools are banned, Arabic school is banned, and they can’t build new mosques nor can they renovate the many that have been destroyed.”

 

Documentary Photographer  and Social Sciences Educator Colin Boyd Shafer is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From his series ‘The Canadian Rohingya’.  To see Colin’s body of work click on any image.

 

“He likes Candy… He was born here, so he’s our Canadian!” – Kalim’s Mother

 

“I once owned garment shops and convenience stores, and could afford to give generously during Ramadan. These were all taken away. Today I still try to help those in need and be generous.”

 

“I’m back in school right now, studying to become a public health worker. I want to help our community here and in Southeast Asia.” – Rofiqa

 

The Rohingya are arguably the world’s most persecuted people.

Aside from their formal exclusion by Myanmar’s military government, there are a myriad of less evident ways the Rohingya, an ethnic, linguistic and religious minority have been marginalized, specifically in relation to the colour of their skin, their religion, and their identity. Many other ethnic minorities have suffered at the hands of Myanmar’s oppressive military regime, but the Rohingya’s very existence is threatened.

 

“I went to teach in the refugee camp with pants on. The inspector told me I wasn’t allowed to because I can’t be like him… I needed to wear the traditional longi because I’m a refugee. The camp boss argued that he wouldn’t be able to differentiate between refugees and staff if we wore pants.”

 

“Saa (Tea) is important to our culture. We like hospitality, and serving guests. It is a sign of respect.”

 

For too many years the international community has been, for the most part silent – and in spite of recent international attention to their plight, the Burmese authorities have showed no sign of changing their ways.

 

“Aside from my ambition to become a successful businessman, I want to live a life where I get involved in helping others… not just our people.” – Mohamed

 

“We will always be thankful to Canada. We have no words to give thanks. Still we are very sorry for our people in Burma. Here we can buy fish and meat, and there they have nothing. I continue to work for my community here and in Burma. I try to be an ambassador and advocate for our cause. It is important that Canadian society knows what is going on.” – Nur Hashim

 

In 2006, five families of Rohingya were selected by the Canadian Government for resettlement. This made Canada the first country to formally resettle Rohingya, and many other developed countries have followed this lead.

Today there are over 300 Rohingya living in Canada and over a third of them live in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario.

 

“I love drawing and sports. Someday I will help poor people.” – Shahi

 

“Abul Bosher was a Member of Parliament and Parliamentary Secretary in Burma from 1901 – 1991. He is a symbol of the Rohingya and proof of our history in Burma.”

 

See also:

They Desire A Better Country

Original Photographs by Colin Boyd Shafer

 


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