A Christmas reflection by Peter Shaw, Tear Times Editor
Arriving in the Rohingya camps in February this year, it was hard to get a sense of scale. We knew that more than 700,000 people had fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 2017. But to picture it, we needed to get higher.
I noticed a three-story wooden structure with a ladder leading to the top. Tearfund’s partner staff told us it was an elephant-spotting tower. The camps are situated in a wildlife sanctuary south of Cox’s Bazar.
As we climbed to the top, the view was astonishing. Settlements sprawled as far as we could see, covering hills in the distance – and much further beyond.
Floods of tears
Over the course of two days I met dozens of people desperate to tell me their harrowing stories. Every person had seen or experienced extreme violence: friends and family massacred and burnt.
But the memory of one lady in particular has stayed with me throughout this year. Her name is Nur and her husband was killed in front of her.
The story flooded out of Nur as she spoke, and so did her tears. I instinctively pulled a tissue out of my pocket and handed it to her.
But she continued to wipe away at her face with her hands. She held onto the clean tissue as we went outside to take photos of the living conditions in the camp. And I realised that Nur had taken the tissue as a gift. It was a commodity – too precious to waste on tears. You can see it in her hands, in the photo above.
Nur told me she had no way of earning money to support her six children. She was reliant on the help of our partners and other organisations. No wonder that anything – even my tissue – was gratefully received and treasured.
I hope you will join me in reflecting this Christmas about the gifts we give and receive. For people like Nur, even the smallest gift can be of untold value. But how often do we miss the blessings that we have because our lives are so full?
At Christmas we should particularly remember God’s Son who was also a refugee fleeing violence. Jesus became poor to offer us the precious gift of life.
- Lift up the hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals living in harsh conditions in Bangladesh.
- Ask God to bring peace and an end to the killing of Rohingya people in Myanmar. They are being offered the opportunity to return, but don't feel safe to do so.
- Spend some time reflecting on the gifts you give and receive over Christmas. Ask God to help you be more generous towards people who have so little.