Football and a Symphony seems a strange juxtaposition? I went to a most interesting talk yesterday at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg, a “Conversation Circle” about Identity and a sense of belonging, a discussion inspired by the Time to Act: Rohingya Voices exhibition.
A group of strangers most with very little knowledge of Rohingya but wanting to learn more about it and humanity, and a facilitator, or two.
Refugees, their experience, how does it happen? What can we do about it, before, after, during?
We spent some time looking at the exhibit, talking and learning about the situation. 600,000 in a refugee camp, the largest in the world. right next door to Bangladesh, north of Thailand, in a country called Myanmar. “Officially, on paper, the country’s name is Myanmar. In 1989, the ruling military government changed the name from Burma to Myanmar after thousands were killed in an uprising. The city of Rangoon also became Yangon. … The name change was also a way to rid the country of British colonial influences” This country has over 100 ethnic groups, yet one, the Muslim Rohingya have been targeted as unwanted, even though they have been there for 1000’s of years. Who is doing this? The Military under Buddhist extremists. I always thought Buddhists wouldn’t hurt a fly, literally?
It seems there are many refugees worldwide being displaced, forced to flee their homes because they fear for their lives. People in positions of power often through violence deciding that another group of people is not wanted in their area, a “cleansing” a “genocide”. How does it often happen? Sometimes a telltale sign to watch for is “Identity cards”, when we signal out by class, by ethnic group, possibly by health, gender, religion, one from another and we make these identity cards, symbols in the case of the Jews in WW11 being made to wear yellow stars on their sleeves. People use these symbols, these identity cards, to paint a generalized picture of these people. Often those in power then start to blame their area’s current issues on these “identified people” and they become the common link, the target to fight against. They are de-humanized.
De-Humanized. Seen as unworthy, not even valued as much as an animal, how else could people carry out such barbaric crimes against them? Atrocities. How did they convince themselves that these “identified people” are no longer their friends, their neighbours, but the enemy?
So many thoughts were shared during the Conversation Circle. One stated early on they were there to see how it related to our own indigenous people, and it does in many ways, unfortunately. They have been given identity cards, plots of land they can live on. Many were not allowed to vote until 1947 or later. On 31 March 1960, portions of Section 14(2) of the Canada Elections Act were repealed in order to grant the federal vote to status Indians. First Nations people could now vote without losing their Indian status.
Our conversation circle ended, with what could we do, or us as individuals do to help with the refugee situation? Should you voice your concerns to others, to others with differing opinions or stay silent, one asked? Speak up I said, or if everyone stays silent we will believe that their silence means they agree with oppressors.
It comes down to the bullying on the playground, to peer pressure and not speaking up for those that need to be defended.
One said if we could all strive to remember to treat people with the human rights they are entitled to as humans. Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. To be kind, to treat others as we wish to be treated would do a lot.
Later that same day I went to the symphony, different groups of instruments, all playing together for a common good, instruments like ethnicities or characteristics, can we not have leaders that bring out the best in us all? So that together we make beautiful music together?
This also reminded me of a talk from a football coach, Saskatchewan Rough Riders I believe, he was presenting at a School Trustee Conference in Winnipeg. He spoke of how his team was made up of many walks of life, different ethnicities, different socio-economic classes, different religions, etc, they were strangers and he had to lead these players to play as a team. He needed them to understand that though they had differences, they needed to focus on how they would all work together to be the best team they could be.
We need to work together.