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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 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)

April 21, 2014

Dynamic New Atlas Seeks Justice for Environmental Conflicts Worldwide

Hear the term conflict resolution and it usually brings to mind parties involved in armed conflict.  The violence and intensity of these situations commands our attention.  The global community has evolved diplomatic, economic and other interventions to help opposing parties step back from violence and negotiate solutions to their differences. However, we are often less equipped to deal with very serious, but non-military, conflicts arising from unresolved global issues like climate change.

Perhaps it is because the events contributing to climate change and environmental degradation are more diffuse, slower moving and have consequences that are further in the future.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that the economic disruptions engendered by climate change could lead to armed conflict.  Yet there has been no consensus on how to move forward.  Environmental conflicts play out in locales across the world, often without much media attention.  We have few at our disposal to help us grasp the scope and nature of the problem.  But that may be changing.

The Environmental Justice Atlas is a new online tool that maps locations where environmental conflicts currently exist (see the atlas at http://ejatlas.org/)  It was introduced the week of March 17th and is invaluable for those who study environmentally-based conflicts.  The Environmental Justice Atlas was funded by the European Commission and built by Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT). There are 915 conflicts currently covered.  “It’s only the tip of the iceberg,” says Nick Meynen, EJOLT spokesman.  The group’s goal is to expand the initial coverage to 2,000 conflicts in the coming year.  (Science, 28 March 2014, Vol. 343, p. 1413)

The tool uses a global map to highlight the hotspots of environmental conflict.  A set of 100 filters covering categories such as Country, Company, Commodity, and Type let even environmental novices easily pinpoint specific sites of conflict and their origins.  Though easy to use, the Environmental Justice Atlas is designed with a depth of information that will be appreciated by academicians and activists alike.   The tool is also available to the public.  Sites of environmental conflict are color coded to make it easy for the user to discern the type of environmental threat that exists at a specific location.  In the U.S. for example, there are 35 sites of environmental conflict identified and described in detail.

The genius of this tool is that it simultaneously gives us the global picture of environmental threats and also lets us quickly get to the details of situations needing our attention.  It is an open tool.  Academics can provide input to expand the range of cases and fill in gaps.  As the tool evolves, it may become a political force that makes it more difficult for politicians around the globe to ignore or defer action on environmental issues.

The stakes are high, especially for future generations who have no voice now in the decisions being made to avert catastrophic environmental damage from climate change, as well as potential armed conflict driven by these disruptive forces.  Tools like the Environmental Justice Atlas can help focus our attention, avoid indecision, and make informed choices.

February 4, 2014

Meet the Rotary Peace Fellows – Sana Saeed

Sana Saeed is a Peace Fellow based out of the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo, Japan. ICU is one of the International Peace  Centers around the world supported by Rotary.

Sada’s experience includes working at the Interfaith Alliance as the Program Coordinator of Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity (LEADD).  This national program for high-school age youth promotes active citizenship in a multi-faith society.

As Director of Youth Programs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, VA, (UUCA), Sana gained in-depth experience and developed her skills to effectively work with youth by managing social justice, spiritual, and education programs for 300 high-school and middle-school youth. While at UUCA, Sana also served as a consulting Program Manager for the Interfaith Youth Action Group (IYAG), a pilot initiative in the Washington, D.C., area that builds on previous efforts by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faiths Act Fellows. It aims to empower high school students from diverse backgrounds to become leaders in interfaith dialogue and service, guiding them to create their own year-long community service initiatives with both a local and global expression, using the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as their platform.

Sana extensive experience also includes working in the role of Campus Program Coordinator for the American Islamic Congress (AIC) with a focus on Project Nur, an initiative to create multicultural and interfaith student groups on U.S. college campuses. Her work with the AIC was highlighted in an article Sana co-authored about the impact of Project Nur on Muslim students in Washington D.C. and Boston, MA.

Early in her career, Sana worked as a Program Associate for Clergy Beyond Borders, an organization that aims to build bridges between clergy of different faiths and train them to promote religious pluralism. At the same time, she was also a Graduate Research Assistant for the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University in Virginia. In 2008, she completed her M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.

Sana’s recent accomplishments include co-authoring a national high-school curriculum on introducing the concepts of anti-racism and social justice to teens called, Building a Beloved Community with the Unitarian Universalist Association, for whom she is a member of the national Youth Ministry Advisory Committee (YMAC). In June 2012 she was elected to be an at large Board member of the InterFaith Conference of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C.

1.  What is your opinion about the prospects of an end to armed conflict in the next    50 years?

I’d like to think that in the next 50 years there would be an end to armed conflict, but history shows that humans have used armed conflict for thousands of years. I think priorities of peace makers should focus on creating more understanding to foster pluralism, dialogue to prevent misunderstandings, access to peace education as a way to begin addressing the use of arms in conflict, and also to grapple with societies in the midst of armed conflict. I believe these elements and more need to become more accessible to, and include input from, the people on the ground (local communities) who are caught in the midst of armed conflict, as a way to begin addressing the growth of peace.

2.   What do you believe are the three most important contributing factors to     fostering peace within and among nations?

I believe interfaith dialogue, education, and inclusivity are essential to fostering peace. By inclusivity I mean making sure the voice at the grassroots level and in local communities impacted by conflict, trauma, and violence is prevalent in the peace process, including peace talks, as national conversations around peace often represent only a certain set of voices with access to the conversation.

Your comments are welcome.  Send them directly to our Managing Editor at:  rebecca.popham@tutufoundationusa.org, or use the “Post a Comment” box below if you prefer.

November 5, 2013

The Father of Peace Research

Johan Galtung is a Norwegian professor and author, widely regarded as the “Father of Academic Peace Research.”  He is a mathematician, sociologist, political scientist and the founder of the discipline of peace studies.  His pioneering and continuing efforts have inspired the creation of Peace and Conflict Resolution academic programs in universities throughout the world.

Galtung was born in Oslo in 1930.  He experienced World War II in German-occupied Norway, and as a 12 year old saw his father arrested by the Nazis. By 1951 he was already a committed peace mediator, and elected to do 18 months of social service in place of his obligatory military service. After 12 months, Galtung insisted that the remainder of his social service be spent in activities relevant to peace, to which the Norwegian authorities responded by sending him to prison, where he served six months.

During his 40 year career, Johan Galtung has been a visiting professor at 30 schools on 5 different continents. He has written more than 100 books and over 1,000 articles about peace and conflict resolution, ecology, health, global governance, sustainable development and economic reform. In 1959 he stated the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo and directed it for 10 years. In 1964, he launched the Journal for Peace Research at the University of Oslo. In 1993 he co-founded TRANSCEND – A Peace and Development Network for Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means which has members in more than 50 countries.

Galtung first conceptualized “peacebuilding” by calling for systems that would create sustainable peace. He envisioned peacebuilding structures that would address the root causes of conflict and support local capacity for peace management and conflict resolution.

He is one of the authors of an influential account of news values which are the factors which determine what coverage is given to what stories in the news. Galtung originated the concept of Peace Journalism, which is increasingly influential in communications and media studies.

Galtung is also strongly associated with the following concepts:

  • Structural violence – Widely defined as the systematic ways in which a regime prevents individuals from achieving their full potential. Institutionalized racism and sexism are examples of this.
  • Negative vs. Positive Peace – The concept that peace may be more than just the absence of overt violent conflict (negative peace), and will likely include a range of relationships up to a state where nations (or any groupings in conflict) might have collaborative and supportive relationships (positive peace).

Galtung’s opinions and predictions have sometimes made him a controversial figure, but his lifelong contributions to the field of peace studies and conflict resolution have earned him a lasting place among the key figures in the global peace movement.