Nepal: “Differences Give Meaning to the World”

July 3, 2017

KATHMANDU, NEPAL — I heard about the Rohingya refugees in Nepal when I saw a post on Facebook about them. As I looked for more information, I noticed that it was difficult to find details about their lives here. I saw news stories about the attacks they endured in Myanmar because they are Muslims, but that was it.

To find out more, I boarded a bus to Kapan, a town just beyond Kathmandu’s northeastern edge. When I arrived, I first saw some men in front of their tent, standing in the warm sun. I asked if they were from Myanmar, gently, to gauge their comfort level with answering questions.

They looked at one another before answering and spoke to one another in their own language. Then, Zubair, a Rohingya man who asked that his last name not be used, approached me and asked in broken Nepali what I wanted with them. When I explained that I wanted to write about their situation, he opened up. Eventually I spoke to him in Hindi. It is a language neither of us speak fluently, but we were able to connect.

The men told me that they have ongoing financial problems. Children and parents made it clear that they expected me to give them food or money. Bound by professional ethics, I didn’t offer either.

At 5 p.m., a bell rang and the men went into a shelter they use as a mosque. Seeing their devotion, I felt connected to God myself. I’m Hindu, but I love to participate in festivals for other religions. Differences matter, because those differences give meaning to the world.

Abdul Jalil 80 (right), Malibu Jubail (middle), 40, and Zubair (left), 36, sit at their home in Kapan, a community near Kathmandu, Nepal. The men are Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Yam Kumari Kandel, GPJ Nepal