Nowhere to Call Home: Serving the Rohingya

They have been called the “most persecuted people group,” and today, many who are watching their plight would not argue that claim.

Driven by brutal violence into the neighboring country of Bangladesh, some members of this Muslim-minority people group from Myanmar are having their first contact with the compassion and love that is foundational to our faith, through the work of a local Christian hospital.

News reports state that more than 400,000 men, women, and children—most having endured massive physical and emotional trauma—are desperately fleeing Myanmar and being targeted by their predominately Buddhist government as they pour across the border into Bangladesh. Many of these refugees need medical care to treat illnesses and injuries as severe as landmine and bullet wounds.

While other humanitarian organizations are supplying aid to refugees, only our partner NGO, Memorial Christian Hospital, is equipped to provide critical surgical care for these victims of physical trauma.

Just 70 miles from the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, a team of medical workers and nationals who staff Memorial Christian Hospital have been working 80-hour weeks all month, performing life-saving surgeries, repairing limbs, and treating malnutrition. A recent BBC video documented how the refugee crisis has overwhelmed the hospital—and U.N. estimates predict the number of Rohingya leaving Myanmar could balloon to one million by the year’s end.

Yet, God is using this crisis to bring this people group to those who can minister to both their physical and spiritual needs.

“When we first became aware of this people group, we asked how God might use us to help them,” commented one worker. “With the conflict growing, some of these people have come to us.”

Entire families of workers, including children, are pitching in at the hospital, distributing meals and care packages to waiting patients. But the nearly-crippling patient influx is not without its difficulties.

“We Are Fighting This War Too”

The current hospital staff only has the capacity to treat a handful of surgical trauma patients a day, in addition to their other patients. More than 80 percent of the referrals must be turned away due to lack of bed capacity and staff, despite of the unimaginable need tugging at the hearts of the small team. There is a desperate need for more nurses and skilled-caregivers to care for more patients.

“My body is aching and my heart is crying,” remarked one of the surgeons, writing at around 3 a.m. after operating on a teenage boy who stepped on a landmine. “We are fighting this war too. In a few hours—assuming I don't get called again—I pick up my scalpel to continue my fight.”

Team members from our partner NGO shared the story of a Rohingya mother who was searching for a second son at another medical facility after her 16-year-old lost both his legs to a landmine explosion and passed away—illustrating the enormous need for not only qualified surgeons but also post-traumatic care.

Divine Timing

Providentially, a gospel translation project in the language of the Rohingya was completed by workers in Bangladesh just before the refugee population surged to its present levels.

ABWE’s hospital relief fund helps patients at Memorial Christian Hospital with their rehabilitation and cover the costs for skilled volunteers who come to assist the heavily taxed team. This crisis also beckons the need to complete a major initiative to renew and expand the facility, which was already seeing up to 200 patients each day in its outpatient and emergency departments.

“It’s not our job to heal all of Bangladesh. We know that. But sometimes we wish we could help a little bit more than we can,” a team member continued. “And someday, when the new hospital is done, hopefully we will be able to.”

But with an additional 300,000 Rohingya expected to flood into Bangladesh in the next three months, the greatest need is for experienced OR and surgical ward nurses—not just space. In addition, this hospital is in desperate need of Family Practitioners and an Obstetrician/Gynecologist.

Pray that God would provide the staff needed to support the work of our partner hospital, that God would bring healing and hope to those affected by the refugee crisis, and that God would open doors and grant stamina and peace to the team serving in Bangladesh.

If God is burdening you to pray, give, or go, explore our work in South Asia or start the conversation.