September 8th, 2017

More than a decade ago I began writing, often three times daily, about Myanmar and, as my blog-sister Shamash called her, Our Lady Aung San Suu Kyi.

I slacked off in 2011 because Myanmar seemed to be changing for the better and I turned my blog attentions elsewhere.

Over the last few days, however, Myanmar, and Aung San Suu Kyi, have once again come to our attention and the Noble laureate’s legacy is in great danger.

Writing in Desmond Tutu condemns Aung San Suu Kyi: ‘Silence is too high a price’ for The Guardian, Naaman Zhou explains:

Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu has called on Aung San Suu Kyi to end the violence against her country’s Rohingya Muslim minority in a heartfelt letter to the Myanmar leader.

The 85-year old archbishop 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”. Despite Aung San Suu Kyi defending her government’s handling of the growing crisis, Tutu urged his fellow Nobel peace price winner to intervene.

Tutu wrote:

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.

While there is no mechanism for such an action, some are calling for the Nobel committee to strip Suu Kyi of her status as a laureate. I can understand why partisans wanted the committee to take similar actions with laureates PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and President Barack Hussein Obama, the case of Suu Kyi feels different.

Zhou continues

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever peace prize winner, said on Monday “the world is waiting” for Aung San Suu Kyi to act.

“Every time I see the news, my heart breaks,” she wrote on Twitter. “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same”.

On Tuesday, the United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said the government clearance operations in Rakhine “risked” ethnic cleansing. A Change.org petition to revoke Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize had reached 377,332 signatures by Friday.

On Thursday, Aung San Suu Kyi made her first spoken remarks on the crisis in Rakhine since government crackdowns began last month.

It is a little unreasonable to expect us to solve the issue in 18 months. The situation in Rakhine has been such since many decades. It goes back to pre-colonial times.

According to UN estimates, up to 300,000 Rohingya could be displaced into Bangladesh due to “clearance operations” by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s armed forces.

Not unreasonable at all, Our Lady.

I could be wrong. I need to think much more about this.


  1. anon says:

    Muslims are wired by upbringing to turn to suicidal jihadists at the slightest irritation; they turn into theocratic facists everywhere so I am willing to turn the other way to the idea of booting them out of that country. Until the whole world is atheist, are a clear and present threat to not just western values, but the modern secular values of tolerance, free speech, free choice, and empowerment of women.

    Muslims follow a totalitarian ideology so there must be an exception to deal with this scourge that wants to take every country into Sharia and the Dark Ages. Turkey in particular has pledged to stop teaching evolution!

  2. Jeff Hess says:

    Good morning Anon,

    First, thank you for stopping in, for reading and, most importantly, for taking the time to write a comment and enter the discussion. We build our communities with our conversations.

    Second, a wise teacher taught me many years ago that if I know one person who fits a stereotype, then I know one person who fits a stereotype. We ought not to allow ourselves to succumb to the distraction of a mythic they/them.

    I reject the idea that any group of people can be hardwired in the way you describe. I agree that religious fringes, like all fringes, contain social outliers, some good, some bad. I would apply that rule, however, to all belief systems, including Atheism (a system to which I hold). Any subjective view is susceptible to extremism.

    My reading suggests to me that or current manic fear is the result of deliberate manipulation by a cabal of über wealthy elites who wish the masses to be distracted from their continued greed. (See the works of Naomi Klein—The Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything and No Is Not Enough—for a good start).

    Pay attention to the people behind the curtains, the names not in the news, because they are the real threats.



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