Back on September 21, it was the International Day of Peace. The goal of this day is to bring nations together to look for peaceful solutions to conflict and to care for those displaced by war and internal conflict.
It is not easy to understand what cause or difference could be so extreme as to cause destructive war and internal conflict.
The Rohingya people group in Myanmar are the latest cultural group in our news who are fighting to survive the internal conflict.
In our shop, we have carry bags for our shoppers. The bags are made from reused newspapers and made by a group of women who live in the slum of Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. Most of the bags are in the elegantBengali script, but strangely, some are in English. I find it fascinating to read the Bengali news on the side of each bag!
So much of the Bangladeshi news is about the ruthless treatment of the Rohingya peoples within Myanmar and the growing number of people fleeing to Bangladesh. Bangladesh gives shelter to men, women and children who have been displaced by this conflict. A flood of new people seeking safety has entered Bangladesh since August 25th this year. The Bangladeshi Army guards their border to ensure the Rohingya do not enter, and behind the refugee camp, the Myanmar Security forces are laying landmines to prevent their return.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya People have been denied the right to vote and been used as forced labour, denied citizenship, education, and healthcare. InAugust this year the security forces organised a "Scorched Earth' military policy. Over two hundred burnt villages can be seen from our satellites.
Last week I drove to work and the car ahead of mine had a sticker saying "Go Home - We're Full" I think the grim-faced driver would not be so sure if he had any idea what the Rohingya were fleeing from.
Bangladesh is a developing nation with widespread poverty. They are currently hosting 300,000 to 500,000 people seeking refuge, many from the Rakhine State of the Rohingya people. Australia is the third richest nation on earth. Last year Australia recognised only 6,567 people seeking Asylum.(www.refugeecouncil.org.au) Of the 2.5 million refugees worldwide whose status is recognised by the UNHCR, just 1.43% were assisted by Australia(34,193 people). There are 150 people from the Rohingya State in Myanmar on the Australian Manus and Nauru internment facilities that have been facing increasing pressure from the Immigration Department to go home.
Embarrassingly, the current Commonwealth Government has recently cut our overseas aid spending to the lowest level since Australia as a nation established a policy of Overseas Aid sixty years ago. Some of this overseas aid has been redirected to fund both onshore and offshore internment camps for Asylum Seekers, and a large portion in aid is allocated to Papua New Guinea as part of their agreement to host the internment of people on ManusIsland. In May the government cut another 300 million from our aid budget.
This doesn't reflect the character of the Australian people who annually commit to giving over one billion dollars in overseas aid.
What our leaders do understand is that all people of our world have the same right as we to live in safety, respect and peace. I believe that we will not be a mature nation until we embrace an attitude of sharing, and celebrate the amazing gift of having more than enough.