“If I could build one place, it would be easy to help everyone at once. Like a village. Our village” – the anxious dream of a traumatized Rohingya refugee newly granted U.S. asylum in 2013.
None believed in it. Few even knew then of the Rohingya people or their horrific persecution by Myanmar’s Burmese Buddhists.
But Zakat Foundation of America donors and leadership – already supporters and advocates of Burma’s Rohingya for more than a decade – not only believed in the vision but built it in April 2016 in the form of Chicago’s West Rodgers Park Rohingya Culture Center (RCC), after learning the U.S. had granted visas to a few hundred families.
Incredibly, on March 28 that nervous refugee visionary, Nasir Bin Zakaria, received the Red Cross’ prestigious Global Citizenship Award at its 2018 “Heroes Breakfast.” RCC made that possible. The honor goes to someone striving to “meet the needs of the world’s potentially vulnerable populations by building safer, more resilient communities and providing needed relief.”
“It is amazing. Everyone is coming to us to process their trauma – to cry together, to pray together – because we have a place,” Bin Zakaria said.
More than 400 Rohingya refugee families, some 2,000 people, flock in daily droves to the RCC for job placement, to English-language learning, to weddings, Quran studies, counseling, youth sports, and so much more.
After God’s blessings, and his fellow board and community members’ hard work, Bin Zakaria is quick to remember Zakat Foundation givers.
“Our Center has meant new life for us,” Bin Zakaria said, “a new village – and everything Zakat Foundation supporters have done for us to finally live a new life.”
“We hold a special place for the Zakat Foundation family. They have received this award. You are part of our village. And we are a part of you.”
In 2013, London-based Equal Rights Trust Executive Director Dimitrina Petrova declared the Rohingya “among the most discriminated communities in the world.” Three years in the making, the landmark report dovetailed with a parallel study by Bangkok’s Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies of Mahidol University on the plight of stateless Rohingya in Thailand and Malaysia, where most Rohingya fled before last summer’s ethnic cleansing – including Bin Zakaria in 1991, at just 14.
A later Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights study found the Rohingya account for a staggering one in seven stateless people, the highest rate of all world communities.
Against this dire backdrop, Zakat Foundation charitable givers have demonstrated their compassionate commitment to reestablishing humanity’s mushrooming refugee populations.
“Zakat Foundation people and donors – they work very hard for refugee people all over the world,” Bin Zakaria said. “Their love and support of the refugee is proven. We Rohingya in Chicago are just one example. Look what we have done, how we have risen.”
“I never forget the donors who support Zakat Foundation to help us. And I will never ever forget Zakat Foundation’s people. I have no words to say thank you for your connection with us.”