South African icon and Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, has broken his vow of silence on public affairs to pen a heartbreaking letter to fellow Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi begging her to break her own silence and speak out on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
In the past two weeks almost 165,000 refugees have fled their homes in western Myanmar to escape torture, rape and burning as violence reportedly escalates between the country’s military and Rohingya militants.
Suu Kyi, who for two decades was a peaceful symbol of resistance against oppression, has remained largely silent over the atrocities; although she reportedly told the Turkish president that she blames “fake news” for the reports, and says there is a “huge iceberg of misinformation” which is benefitting terrorists.
In a Twitter post on Thursday evening, Tutu said: “As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous & resilient again…” He then posted an open letter for her to read:
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.