The United Nations lists the Rohingya Muslims of northwestern Burma (Myanmar) among the most persecuted people in the world. Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law denied the ethnic minority Muslim group legal status, rendering them stateless, and denying them the right education, work, and travel. Since then, many of the Rohingya have been displaced by ethnic violence and have been forced to flee the persecution.The Rohingya Cultural Center was established in 2016, in Chicago’s West Ridge/West Rogers Park neighborhood, to serve the needs of the growing Rohingya refugee community. As many as 1000 Rohingya have been resettled in the Chicago since 2010, with the overwhelming majority of them living in this.
The need for such a center, which could provide social services for the growing community, help with assimilation by providing much needed English language instruction, was first conceptualized by Nasir Zakaria, the center’s current director, and one of the first Rohingya refugees to arrive in Chicago. It opened on April 9, 2016. Since then, the number of programs and the number of constituents has only grown.
The center is partially funded by a grant from the Zakat Foundation.