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May 29, 2015

Desmond Tutu: The Slow Genocide Against the Rohingya

Rohingya migrants who arrived in Indonesia last week by boat walk back after collecting breakfast at a temporary shelter near Langsa on Wednesday. DARREN WHITESIDE/REUTERS

Transcribed from Archbishop Tutu’s speech to the Oslo Conference on Rohingyas

The credit that is due to the government of Myanmar for reforms undertaken over the past couple of years does not blind us to the ongoing disavowal and repression of its ethnic minorities, the Rohingya population in particular.

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. Freedom is indivisible. All must be invited. All, a part.

The Rohingya people were not consulted when the British drew the Burmese border on the map. With those strokes of a pen, they became a borderland people; people whose ancestral land traverses political boundaries.

Burma’s post-colonial government, elected in 1948, officially recognized the Rohingya as an indigenous community, as did its first military government that ruled from 1962 to 1974.

Manipulation by the military of ethnic minorities in the west of the country dates back to the late 1950s. At first, the military sought to co-opt the Muslim Rohingya to quell the Buddhist Rakhine after Rakhine separatists had been crushed. The military turned only Rohingya.

In 1978, the Far Eastern Economic Review described the Rohingya as the victims of Burmese apartheid. A few years later, a citizenship law left the Rohingya off the list of indigenous people, describing them as Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

In the context of rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, many Buddhists, particularly in Rakhine state, regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. More than 100,000 Rohingya are trapped in internment camps. They may not leave “for their own protection.” They hold only temporary identity cards. In February, they lost all voting rights.

The government of Myanmar has sought to absolve itself of responsibility for the conflict between the Rakhine and the Rohingya, projecting it as sectarian or communal violence.

I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people. There’s evidence, they say, that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself.

Human beings may look and behave differently to one another, but ultimately none of us can claim any kind of supremacy. We are all the same. There are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims. It is possible to transplant a Christian heart into a Hindu chest and for a citizen of Israel to donate a kidney to a Palestinian.

We’re born to love—without prejudice, without distrust. Members of one family, the human family—made for each other and for goodness. All of us!

We are taught to discriminate, to dislike and to hate.

As lovers of peace and believers in the right of all members of the family to dignity and security, we have particular responsibilities to the Rohingya. 2015 is a big year for Myanmar, with both a referendum on its constitution and a general election on its calendar.

Even as we seek to encourage the country to build on the reforms it has started, we have a responsibility to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya is not lost. We have a responsibility to hold to account those of our governments and corporations that seek to profit from new relationships with Myanmar to ensure their relationships are established on a sound ethical basis.

We have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality and basic human rights to the Rohingya.

Source: Newsweek/Oslo Conference on Rohingyas

May 29, 2015

Can America Heal After Ferguson? A discussion with Archbishop Tutu and Mpho Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is perhaps the closest thing the world has to an expert on forgiveness. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he led the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was charged with healing the wounds inflicted by generations of institutionalized racism.

His work helped South Africa transition from an apartheid state to a multiracial democracy. In the process, Tutu and the Commission considered more than 7,000 applications for amnesty, acting on the idea that everyone deserves the chance to walk the road of redemption.

Tutu remains widely sought after for his wisdom, particularly as countries around the world attempt to use the process of truth and reconciliation to heal from their own legacies of conflict and hurt. He and his daughter the Rev. Mpho Tutu recently released their Book of Forgiving, a guide for both perpetrators and victims of violence to embrace their mutual humanity and learn how to forgive, and how to be forgiven.

For the Summer 2015 issue of YES! Magazine, titled “Make It Right,” Desmond and Mpho Tutu were interviewed by YES! Editor in Chief Sarah van Gelder and contributor Fania Davis, a civil rights attorney and executive director of Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth.

Click here for the full YES! Magazine interview with Archbishop and Mpho Tutu.

May 28, 2015

Archbishop Tutu Joins HelpAge International’s Campaign to Make Older People Count

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is backing young and old to demand that everyone counts when governments agree on global goals to reduce poverty at the UN later this year.

“As we get older our rights do not change. As we get older, we are no less human and should not become invisible,” said 84-year-old Archbishop Desmond Tutu in a video released today.

Life expectancy is on the rise and the demographic make-up of the world’s population is changing at an unprecedented rate. Today, there are more than 895 million women and men aged 60 and over, representing 12 per cent of the global population. By 2030, this is projected to rise to 1.3 billion or 16 per cent while the proportion of people aged 15-24 will be 15 per cent.

May is the month when the global campaign, action/2015, hots up to highlight the importance of all ages in the Sustainable Development Goals being set for the next fifteen years at the United Nations in September and later at the UN Climate Change Conference COP21 in December.

The action/2015 May Month of Action will feature 14 Global Action Days – organised on themes of ageism, child health, faith and climate change, gender equality and hunger and nutrition – as well as hundreds of events including marches, concerts, flash mobs, workshops and debates throughout the month.

“This year decision-makers have the chance to include all ages in their plans for the years ahead,” said Toby Porter, Chief Executive Officer at HelpAge International.

“Across the world, from the Philippines to Zimbabwe, we are joining hands with the world’s older people, who too often go unheard and uncounted. We want to make sure older people are included in these goals to ensure they are legitimate,” he added.

Action All Ages events, to highlight the importance of the SDGs, will be taking place in ten countries around the world.

To learn more about this awesome campaign, visit http://www.helpage.org/get-involved/campaigns/action2015/

Source: HelpAge International 

May 27, 2015

‘Use Myanmar aid to save Rohingya’: Tutu in Oslo

South Africa’s Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu yesterday called for international aid to Myanmar to be linked to the plight of the country’s persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority.

“2015 is a big year for Myanmar with both a referendum on its constitution and a general election,” Tutu told an Oslo conference on the Rohingya.

“We have a responsibility to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya is not lost,” he said in a pre-recorded message aired to participants.

“We have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant-making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya,” he said.

The 1984 Nobel laureate is an anti-apartheid hero respected around the world as a moral authority.

Tens of thousands of Myanmar’s 1.3 million Rohingya have fled the country in recent years, to escape sectarian violence as well as suffocating restrictions preventing travel and employment.

Each year thousands of Rohingya try to flee Myanmar by boat headed for other Southeast Asian countries, spurring a human trafficking trade in often dramatic conditions.

Source: AFP, Oslo

May 4, 2015

Why Does Desmond Tutu Think Bryan Stevenson is “Shaping the Moral Universe”?

By Desmond Tutu | Photo by Annie Liebowitz

“Justice needs champions, and Bryan Stevenson is such a champion.”

Bryan Stevenson is a brilliant lawyer representing America’s conscience on a mission to guarantee equal justice for all.

Over the millennia, people have asked, If God is on the side of justice, why do injustice and inequity abound on earth? When will discrimination and prejudice end?

Not frivolous questions.

In the United States of America, the land of the free, 2.3 million people are imprisoned, with one in three black male babies born this century expected to join them—together with 1 in 17 white boys.  (Read the entire article at VanityFair.com)

May 3, 2015

The Elders Focus On the Need for a Two-state Solution for Israel and Palestine

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Hilik Bar, Secretary-General of Israel's Labor Party and Norway's Former Prime Minister and Deputy-Chair of the Elders, Gro Harlem Brundtland

The Elders ended their visit to Israel and Palestine with a call for meaningful steps to stop the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and reconcile the different Palestinian factions. They are convinced that only a two-state solution can bring a just and lasting peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and Deputy Chair of The Elders, and Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States, visited Israel and Palestine from 29 April to 2 May 2015.

Gro Harlem Brundtland & Jimmy Carter visit a kibbutz next to the Gaza border.

The Elders regretted that they were unable to go to Gaza on this visit but expect to have future opportunities to travel there, to witness the situation firsthand.

They held talks with President Mahmoud Abbas and senior political figures from both Israel and Palestine, civil society groups and ordinary citizens to hear their perspectives and convey The Elders’ commitment to a fair and enduring resolution to the conflict.

Jimmy Carter, former US President, said:

“What we have seen and heard only strengthens our determination to work for peace, the situation in Gaza is intolerable. Eight months after a devastating war, not one destroyed house has been rebuilt and people cannot live with the respect and dignity they deserve.”

The 2 Elders visiting Israel & Palestine meet Palestinian Authority Deputy PM Ziad Abu Amr.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, said:

“It is utterly unacceptable that people in Gaza and Israel live in constant fear of bombardments, incursions and rocket attacks. This causes long-term damage to their physical and psychological health as well as their homes and communities.”

The Elders said reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and the full establishment of the Government of National Consensus in Gaza, is vital to end further suffering.

President Carter said:

“This was the focus of our discussions with President Abbas. We are committed to continued engagement with the President and the Hamas leadership to advance Palestinian reconciliation.”

The Elders also expressed their steadfast support for the State of Israel’s right to exist in peace and security within internationally-recognised borders.

Gro Harlem Brundtland and Jimmy Carter visit Israel and Palestine

Prime Minister Brundtland said:

“We were heartened to hear ordinary Israelis telling us how much they want peace so they can live side by side with their Palestinian neighbours in a spirit of mutual respect, this gives us hope for the future. As Elders, we will continue to do all we can to work with the international community to deliver real peace and security to all people in the region.”

Source: The Elders, Official Press Release, May 2, 2015