Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the Plight of Burma’s Rohingya People

Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the Plight of Burma’s Rohingya People April 22, 2013
“Archbishop Desmond Tutu with fellow Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon last month.” Photo by the Associated Press.

Tricycle‘s Awake in the World blog has been doing an absolutely marvelous job of following news related to Burma’s Rohingya minority, and continues this week with a post by Alex Caring-Lobel, who puts the spotlight on the “mad” Buddhist monk Wirathu. A former prisoner, put behind bars for inciting violence against Burma’s Muslims, and who refers to himself (!!!) as the “Burmese Bin Laden,” he has called for a boycott of Muslim businesses, made baseless claims about the Rohingya, and used explicitly racist and Islamophobic language in his social media work. You can watch a Guardian video report on him here. As Alex puts it about Wirathu (and other depressing Buddhist news within and without Burma), “if you’re still holding on to any bit of romanticism regarding Buddhist monks, young or old, [this] will mercilessly crush it.”

The Rohingya, though, got a boost this weekend from the mighty Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who wrote an op-ed about them for the Washington Post. He writes, after having visited Burma and met with his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time:

 …I departed with a heavy heart. I was shattered by the poverty, the decaying buildings, the uncertain electricity supply and the broken sidewalks. Driving into Yangon, our group paid a number of tolls for which we received no receipt, nothing. How blatantly can you steal money that should be used to benefit ordinary people?

I am worried that the winds of change are not blowing evenly, that some of the weak and the poor will be left behind.

And then there are the Rohingya — just one poignant example of Myanmar’s new freedoms becoming exploited by bullies and extremists. How can people be treated in such a way — hunted down, homes torched, beaten and killed — in the name of a warped sense of nationalism? Do the perpetrators not know that we are from the same human family?

You can read Archbishop Tutu’s entire editorial here.

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