In 2017, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group in majority Buddhist Myanmar, have been attacked, driven from their homes, and often killed by the military as part of what observers are calling a campaign of ethnic cleansing. This lesson will help students understand the news from Myanmar by asking them to read and analyze a September 2017 article from the New York Times. The article will introduce them to key concepts such as nation and self-determination and explain the relationship of these ideas to the conditions that make ethnic cleansing possible.
For additional background on the history of the Rohingya and the events leading up to the 2017 crisis, read The “Ethnic Cleansing” of the Rohingya from the Washington Post. Look for additional lessons from Facing History about the ongoing persecution of the Rohingya in coming weeks. Also, teachers might need to pre-teach the following terms if students have not yet been exposed to them in previous lessons or units: alien, disenfranchise, genocide, nation vs. state, self-determination, and sovereign.
For more activities and resources on Myanmar and the Rohingya, view the lesson Responding to the Rohingya Crisis.
- Introduce the concept universe of obligation using this lesson called Understanding Universe of Obligation. Then ask students to consider the following questions:
- Who is inside Myanmar’s universe of obligation, and who is outside it?
- What responsibility does the international community have when it recognizes that human rights violations are occurring? In other words, where do the Rohingya fall in the international community’s universe of obligation?
- Provide each student with a copy of a blank map of the Myanmar region. Have students label regions and countries referenced in the article and write 1-3 sentence labels that explain the significance of each location.
- Research one of the ethnic groups referenced in the New York Times article in order to investigate similarities and differences to the Rohingyas’ plight and the ethnic cleansing crisis in Myanmar.
- Research organizations that are working to help the Rohingya through humanitarian aid and education. Create a visual or Powerpoint presentation to educate others in your community about the current crisis.