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Scottish photographer Simon Murphy has joined forces with SCIAF and Justice and Peace Scotland to bring traumatic images and stories of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to life in a moving photography exhibition launched in Glasgow Cathedral.
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled for their lives to Bangladesh last year, having experienced unimaginable horrors at the hands of the Myanmar military. They're now living in poverty in a giant refugee camp.
Scottish photographer Simon Murphy travelled to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh in December to see SCIAF's work with Caritas Bangladesh to help some of the most vulnerable refugees.
The free exhibition opened in St Andrew's Cathedral, Glasgow on World Refugee Day and will remain there until 17th July. It will then go on tour around all eight Catholic diocese in Scotland.
Simon hopes his striking images of the plight of the Rohingya people will inspire those who see them to do what they can to help.
He said: “To have the images from the camp displayed in a travelling exhibition around Scotland is lovely. The more attention that the plight of the Rohingya people receive can only be good as hopefully it might move all who see it to do what they can to help.
“Whenever I travel to places such as the Rohingya camp in Bangladesh I am filled with conflicting emotions. I feel deep sadness and helplessness for the people and the conditions that they have to live under.
“I feel guilt that I can return to the comfort of my home and family in Scotland but at the same time feel so grateful that my own children don't have to suffer like the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable young ones at the camp.
“I question my own role as a photographer and what difference can I really make? And then I reconfirm to myself what I know, that people can make a difference and that the images that I have made might strike a chord with someone, and even if they make a small difference, then that is something.
“I really hope that people can take a moment out of their busy schedules to visit the exhibition, and contemplate on how the suffering, the strength, the dignity and courage of others can transform our own outlooks and have a direct impact on how we lead our lives.”
SCIAF’s Director Alistair Dutton said the exhibition is a great opportunity for Scots to share the journey with the Rohingya refugees and encouraged everyone to come along.
He added: “Simon and I were in the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh together when he took these amazing photographs. He has an incredible ability to capture people with all their energy, emotion, hope and pain and these pictures powerfully reflect the men, women and children who saw unimaginable horrors as they fled their homes to escape the brutality of the army in the Myanmar’s Rakhine state – along with more than 688,000 other Rohingya refugees.
“I encourage everyone to come and see his travelling exhibition. Simon’s pictures tell heart-breaking stories and give real insight into the nightmare the Rohingya people have been through. When you come face to face with his remarkable images it will be impossible not to be moved by them.”
Frances Gallagher, of Justice and Peace Scotland, said the exhibition was aimed at raising awareness of the plight of the Rohingya and other refugees around the world forced to flee their homes.
“We hope that by taking these images to every diocese in Scotland, they will help us work towards the welcome, protection, promotion and integration that Pope Francis calls for us to offer the 65 million refugees worldwide,” she added.
Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia said the images will “challenge our consciences more than 1,000 words”.
“No human being can remain indifferent to the appalling level of suffering seen in these images. They challenge our consciences more than 1,000 words. The Holy Father has been insistent in his appeal for us to open our hearts and our lives to refugees. This exhibition will drive home that message loud and clear,” he added.
The exhibition will be visiting St Margaret’s Cathedral in Ayr from 18th July – 25th July, St Peter in Chains, Ardrossan, from 26th July – 5th August, St Teresa’s in Dumfries from 7th August – 14th August, and St Patrick’s, Cowgate, Edinburgh from 10th October – 6th November.
Click below to listen to Premier’s Northern Correspondent Ian Britton reporting from Glasgow.