When you are sick, the last thing you would want is to burden your family. Unfortunately, healthcare costs are rising all over the world. In Myanmar, the situation is dire. When the World Health Organization (WHO) last rated the “overall health system performance” of 191 countries, Myanmar ranked 190. Of all the South-East Asian nations, people living in Burma spend the most on healthcare. On the other hand, the government only spends 2.8 % of the gross domestic product on health – the lowest in South-East Asia. It is not uncommon for people to die from Malaria and other communicable diseases.
In 1937, a group of young local Muslims saved up money to start Muslim Free Hospital in Rangoon, Burma. Their mission was simple – They wanted to help the poor and sick of all communities, no matter the race or religion. This purpose has not changed since then. The administration makes sure that treatments are free for those who cannot afford them and charges a nominal fee to those who are able to pay.
This is extraordinary, considering the situation of Muslims in Myanmar. Muslims make up only 4% of the population. In the Rakhine state, Rohingya Muslims have suffered years of hardship and are deemed by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. “Men, women, children, whole families and entire villages have been attacked and abused, as a form of collective punishment,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Muslim Free Hospital is a radical symbol of unity in a country tormented by religious unrest. The Muslim practice of Zakat, the giving of alms to the poor and needy, is an essential source of income for the hospital. The Muslims in Myanmar continue to contribute approximately $400,000 a year to the Free Muslims hospital to serve the Buddhist majority.
In a world that is plagued with senseless violence and bigotry, the Muslim Free Hospital is a shining example for all of us. They teach us not to let the actions of others define who we are, fight darkness with light, repel hate with love and to “be like the flower that gives its fragrance to even the hand that crushes it.”