It has been almost four weeks since the latest injustice to befall the Rohingya people began. On 25 August, Rohingya insurgents attacked Burmese police in what they said was an act to protect their people from persecution.
The Burmese military has responded in a disproportionate and brutal manner, conducting an operation that has resulted in the death of many Rohingya in Rakhine state and the displacement of 390,000 more to neighbouring Bangladesh. We agree with the UN’s statement that this is tantamount to ‘textbook ethnic cleansing.’
The harrowing images we’ve seen in the news show that the Rohingya, most of whom are Muslim, with some Hindu and Christian, are the victims of an abhorrent persecution.
Today (21 September) marks the International Day of Peace, a UN campaign that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. In light of the Rohingya crisis, the values promoted by this day are more vital than ever; and the demands to implement them, in real terms, are being stressed from some highly influential platforms.
Two weeks ago, Archbishop Tutu penned an open letter to Aung San Suu Kyi, the defacto leader of Burma, imploring her to put an end to the military operation. His sentiments express values that we would all do well to remember:
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.
Tutu went on to say:
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.
The Dalai Lama has also expressed his feelings about the situation, describing the plight of the Rohingya people as ‘very sad’. The Tibetan spiritual leader said the forces who are persecuting Muslims ‘should remember Buddha.’
In comments captured on video at the airport in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala, where he has lived for decades, the Dalai Lama said: ‘in such circumstances Buddha would have definitely helped those poor Muslims. So, still I feel that (it’s) so very sad … so sad.’
The plight of the Rohingya people reminds us of our shared humanity. It is often by the simple chance of where we’re born that we avoid hardship and suffering, so we must not ignore the suffering of others.
On the International Day of Peace, we believe it is crucial for people of all faiths, and none, to call out the Rohingya crisis for what it is: genocide – if only in the hope that the values the day promotes will eventually become reality.
Written by Jasvir Singh OBE.
Featured image credit: Getty.