At Advent, we reflect on the perilous journeys made by Mary and Joseph before and after Jesus’ birth. Such journeys are a reality for millions of people around the world today. The plight of the Rohingya people is a heartbreaking reminder of this. Sanjeev Bhanja leads Tearfund’s disaster response work in Asia and has been working with the Rohingya refugees since 2017, seeing how support from Tearfund has been in helping these communities overcome such desperate circumstances.
Four years ago, almost 1 million Rohingya people fled extreme violence in Myanmar – half of them children. Many of their homes were torched and the journey to Bangladesh – often taken on foot – was dangerous. Survivors tell of being chased and attacked on the way, as well as being separated from their loved ones. There were also many that were killed during their escape.
Since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis, Tearfund and our partners have been supporting Rohingya people in the refugee camps. This includes improving access to clean water and safe sanitation by building shower blocks and toilets, as well as setting up solar lights around the camps to help keep people safe after dark. We are also running child-friendly spaces to enable children to learn, play and grow.
‘More than 40,000 people have been served under different Tearfund programmes,’ shares Sanjeev. ‘We serve them with humility, we serve them with love. That to us, is the kingdom.
‘We are meeting their essential needs to give them hope and allow them to live a life of dignity and respect.’
These families still have no prospect of returning back to their hometowns and continue to face an uncertain future in a foreign country.
‘The need is still massive given the extent of the problem,’ continues Sanjeev. ‘So we are really grateful for the prayers and gifts of our supporters. Life is extremely difficult, but Tearfund is able to contribute to making an impact in small ways in the lives of individuals here.
‘Continue to pray for us, for our partners – that they will continue to have the resources they need to make an impact in people’s lives.’
Pray with us
As you read through and encounter the nativity story this Advent – of Mary’s and Joseph’s struggle back to Bethlehem, the birth in the stable, and how Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus had to then flee for their lives to a new country, reflect on the struggles of people today who have been forced from their homes. Lift up your prayers for them to God; praying for their protection, provision and that they will be able to safely return home.