FMI offers local pastors a different view of Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh (MNN) — In a newly-released video, two ex-soldiers from Myanmar confess to the mass killing and rape of Rohingya Muslims. It’s the first time anyone from Myanmar’s military acknowledged a campaign of violence targeting this people group, CNN reports.

Since 2012, armed attacks have forced between 800,000 and one million Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh. FMI’s Vincent Michael says they’re helping local pastors reach these refugees for Christ.

“A big part of working with Bangladeshis is to encourage them to be visionary, to go into places where we can’t go, and to take those opportunities instead of being scared of them,” Michael says.

Poverty presents a challenge to this mission. More people live below the global poverty line in Bangladesh than anywhere else in South Asia. “There seems to be, from the American perspective, a difference between Bangladeshi citizens and the Rohingya population that’s coming in,” Michael says.

Paradigm shift

Instead of seeing Rohingya refugees as people who need Christ and compassion, some Bangladeshis view them as competition for scarce resources. FMI offered Bangladeshi pastors a different outlook during a recent training session.

(Photo courtesy Tommy Trenchard/ Caritas/ CAFOD via Flickr)

“We made a slideshow of pictures that painted the Rohingya in a more ‘accurate’ light. We showed pictures of Rohingya children crying because they were starving [and] of the bread lines. We showed some of the UN efforts to help in the area,” Michael describes.

“I started seeing a change [during] the conference. When we did that vision casting session, and we showed some of the needs that are in those camps, a large majority of the pastors would say, ‘we’d like to see if we could help; or, at the very least, bring these prayer concerns back to our people.’”

By showing pastors another side of the Rohingya refugee crisis, FMI leaders hoped believers would reconsider their current perspective.

“It’s all about how [the Rohingya] are viewed; so, that’s the first way, and probably most accessible, for us to start changing their hearts,” Michael says.

Next steps

Learn more about FMI’s work in Bangladesh here, and ask the Lord how He wants you to respond to this story. “You hear these stories [and think] what can we do thousands and thousands of miles away?” Michael admits.

But making a difference is easier than it may seem.

“The very first step any of us have to take is to get on our knees and pray ‘Jesus, would You change my heart? Would You teach me how to have a heart more like Your heart?’ Because then, God can do amazing things.”

Header image depicts Rohingya Muslims escaping violence in Myanmar in 2017 by fleeing to Bangladesh. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images; shared on Flickr by Jordi Bernabeu Farrús)

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