Campus activism sheds light on underreported Myanmar genocide

Geneseo student activists often diligently avail themselves of crises that fail to attract widespread media attention. 

The Geneseo Peace Action, Campus Auxiliary Services and Shakti exemplified this by sponsoring a benefit for the Rohingya Refugees in the Genesee Hall lobby on Nov. 18. 

The Rohingya—a religious minority in Myanmar—have been highly discriminated against by the Myanmar government, according to CNN. They have been denied citizenship, denied property rights, experienced limited access to education and have had their freedoms restrained. Food and safety, however, are the biggest concerns for the Rohingya. 

CNN reported that thus far more than 600,000 Rohingya refuges have left Myanmar because of these harsh conditions. Many of these refugees are pursuing safety in Bangladesh. 

“The Rohingya Muslims are currently the largest persecuted minority in the world,” Peace Action president senior Uma Natarajan said. “There is currently an ethnic cleansing going on in Myanmar that is recently getting media attention.”

The Geneseo community gathered together at the benefit to help spread awareness of this issue and to support the cause. 

“[The event] is good so that everyone—even if they don’t have a sociology class—has the opportunity to become more educated about what happens around the world,” pre-biology major sophomore Kaleigh Ross said. “So that way not everyone is so sheltered and everyone has the opportunity to learn on their own.”

During the event, the organizers showed The Rohingya: Silent Abuse from Al Jazeera World. At the beginning of the screening, the coordinators explained that the movie was violent and if people felt uncomfortable, there was a separate room with South Asian cultural activities, such as hair wrapping, watercolor and henna. 

The cost of admission into the event was donated to benefit the refugees. The proceeds are going to a Rohingya relief fund called Global Giving.

“All the proceeds go to help the refugees of the Myanmar genocide. It is going directly to charity, there is nothing else coming out of that,” pre-business administration major freshman Caroline Morris said. “Mostly, we are just trying to raise awareness because the media have been so silent on the issue.”

Attendees agreed that it is important to have events like this on college campuses to raise awareness of crises happening around the world and to encourage people to help make a change. Several people at the event noted that Geneseo does a good job of keeping people informed on world events as well as raising awareness and funds to aid people in need. 

“Events like these are important because a lot of the media do not tell you a lot,” Natarajan said. “This issue has been going on for a really long time and the media do not really depict that until it gets more internet exposure or groups—like our group—advocate for minority groups that aren’t receiving the attention.”

Natarajan also focused on the role that informational events like these fulfill within the wider campus community. 

“I think that it is important to inform our students about what is actually happening in the world, and what you should pay attention to,” she said. “This is something that people can easily help out with and letting people know that they have the ability to help make a change is really powerful.”u

 Benefit coordinators (pictured above) lead activities at a fundraiser for Rohingya Refugees in Genesee Hall on Nov. 18. The event consisted of a documentary screening, in addition to crafts like hair wrapping, watercolor and henna tattoos. (Izzy Graziano/Knights’ Life Editor)

Benefit coordinators (pictured above) lead activities at a fundraiser for Rohingya Refugees in Genesee Hall on Nov. 18. The event consisted of a documentary screening, in addition to crafts like hair wrapping, watercolor and henna tattoos. (Izzy Graziano/Knights’ Life Editor)