Nobel laureate and South Africa’s outspoken Archbishop Desmond Tutu has lambasted Aung San Suu Kyi over the Myanmar government’s treatment of its Rohingya Muslims. In a moving letter to the Suu Kyi, who is also a Nobel laureate, he urged her to immediately intervene in the crisis.
The United Nations on Thursday said that nearly 164,000 Rohingya have escaped to Bangladesh over the past two weeks in the wake of a massive security sweep and alleged atrocities by the country's security forces and Buddhist mobs against the Rohingya.
Tutu said the “unfolding horror” and “ethnic cleansing” in the country’s Rahkine region had forced him to speak out against the woman he admired and considered “a dearly beloved sister”.
Suu Kyi, feted for her years of peaceful opposition to Myanmar’s junta rulers, has been urged to speak up for the Rohingya, with Muslim nations and the UN leading condemnation of her government.
Tutu, fought against apartheid in South Africa and became the moral voice of the nation, joined in the condemnation.
My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread. As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again... For you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your peopleDesmond Tutu, Nobel laureate
“I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness,” he added.
Read Tutu’s open letter to Suu Kyi:
My dear Aung San Suu Kyi
I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya.
In my heart you are a dearly beloved younger sister. For years I had a photograph of you on my desk to remind me of the injustice and sacrifice you endured out of your love and commitment for Myanmar's people. You symbolised righteousness. In 2010 we rejoiced at your freedom from house arrest, and in 2012 we celebrated your election as leader of the opposition.
Your emergence into public life allayed our concerns about violence being perpetrated against members of the Rohingya. But what some have called 'ethnic cleansing' and others 'a slow genocide' has persisted – and recently accelerated. The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.
We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior; that when you scratch the surface we are all the same, members of one family, the human family; that there are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims; and that whether we are Jews or Hindus, Christians or atheists, we are born to love, without prejudice. Discrimination doesn't come naturally; it is taught.
My dear sister: If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.
It is incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country; it is adding to our pain.
As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again. We pray for you to speak out for justice, human rights and the unity of your people. We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness.
God bless you.
The Burmese army is accused of torture, murder and rape of Rohingya Muslims and setting their homes ablaze. Several of them have died and over 130000 have fled the state to India and Pakistan to escape the persecution in the Buddhist majority country.
In February, a report by the United Nations documented how the Burmese army’s attacks on the Rohingya were “widespread as well as systematic” thus “indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”
The international community has also started demanding the Norwegian Nobel Committee to strip Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi of her Nobel Peace Prize for her silence and complicity on the genocide, saying that the women leader has become an apologist “for genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass rape.”
Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Violent attacks by Myanmarese armymen have led to an exodus of the Muslim tribals from the western Rakhine state in that country to India and Bangladesh
Rohingya’s are an ethnic Muslim group who have lived for centuries in the majority Buddhist Myanmar. Currently, there are about 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims who live in the Southeast Asian country. The Rohingya speak Rohingya or Ruaingga, a dialect that is distinct to others spoken in Rakhine State and throughout Myanmar. They are not considered one of the country’s 135 official ethnic groups and have been denied citizenship in Myanmar since 1982, which has effectively rendered them stateless.