As the humanitarian crisis in Buddhist-majority Myanmar is "growing progressively worse" with ethnic Rohingyas bearing the brunt of the military's attacks and fleeing the ongoing violence, the U.S.-based Christian group World Relief is providing help and raising emergency funds for the Muslim minority.
"Rohingya men make up the majority of those killed from the ongoing violence, leaving countless widows and fatherless children behind," the humanitarian group says in a statement about the condition in Western Myanmar. "As a result, over half a million Rohingya — comprised mostly of women and children — have fled Myanmar in just the past two months."
Hundreds of thousands of people continue to face daily challenges to survive the fighting, while struggling to access food, safe drinking water, basic healthcare and safe shelter, according to World Relief.
The ethnic Rohingyas, the majority of whom are Muslim, have faced discrimination and statelessness in Myanmar for decades, and torture, killings and rape in recent years.
According to the United Nations, more than 436,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh, and this is their second exodus, as 87,000 had to flee last October thanks to a brutal government crackdown following attacks by an armed Rohingya group. According to estimates by the U.N., children make up about 60 percent of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
World Relief has expressed gratitude for response of "Christians in both Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as the wider community, who have acted with incredible generosity and compassion toward these refugees."
"The Church throughout the West must now follow their lead," it says. "Our Christian faith compels us to care for the orphan and the widow, which is sadly now the condition of many Rohingya. This is an opportunity for the Church to shine by coming alongside some of the world's most vulnerable people. World Relief is committed to helping as many Rohingya refugees as the size and scope of our resources allow. We ask Christians to pray, and we encourage concerned peoples everywhere to join us in standing with the Rohingya people."
Myanmar's military has been attacking Rohingyas in Rakhine state since Aug. 25, when the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, allegedly a "separatist" group, launched an attack on police posts and a military base there.
Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Peace Prize laureate, recently sent a letter with the signatures of 12 Nobel laureates to the U.N. Security Council, urging it to take immediate action to stop the military attacks on civilians.
"The arguments that the Myanmar government is using to deny Rohingyas their citizenship are ludicrous," the letter said.
While Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is the de facto leader of the country, the generals continue to control national security policy.
Elsewhere along Myanmar's borders, where ethnic rebel groups and government troops have been fighting, civilians from other ethnic and religious minorities have also been forced to flee for safety over the last few monhts.
Tens of thousands of Christians took refuge in Malaysia earlier this year.