By Benedict Rogers
A friend’s appeal to Burma
The violence in Arakan State over the past two weeks has caused disillusion for some, division among many, and shock and anguish for everyone.
Racial and religious tensions that have simmered just beneath the surface for years have exploded into an ugly cycle of destruction and revenge which threatens to derail Burma’s journey towards democracy and peace.
Crude, racist abuse, deliberate misrepresentations, doctored images, misinformation and biased reporting have added a cruel twist to an already bloody tragedy.
Some people may call me biased, and to that charge I plead guilty. But I am biased not in favour of one community over another, in favour of one race or religion over another, in favour of one particular political party over another. Instead, I am biased in favour of the universal values of human rights, including religious freedom.
The tragedy in Arakan State is that ordinary people from both Rakhine and Rohingya communities have suffered.
Homes burned, mosques desecrated, women raped, people killed – and for what purpose? It has been claimed that as many as 30,000 people are displaced as a result of the violence, although this figure is not verified because the UN has vacated its staff and independent monitors have not had access to the area. One of the first things the government of Burma should do is allow international monitors in to assess the situation.
I am biased in favour of mutual respect, equal rights, peace and harmony between religions and races. I am biased in favour of the dignity of each and every human being, whatever their ethnicity or religion. I am biased against intolerance, hatred, racism and extremism.
I am writing this as a friend of Burma and all of Burma’s people. I have worked for the cause of freedom, democracy and human rights in Burma for the past 15 years, and travelled more than 40 times inside the country and to all its borders. I have worked with Burmese democracy activists and former political prisoners, and with Karen, Karenni, Shan, Mon, Kachin, Chin, Rakhine and Rohingya people. I also write as someone with extensive experience of other countries where religious intolerance is growing, often from extremist Islamism: Indonesia, Pakistan and The Maldives, in particular.
And so with that background, I appeal to the government and people of Burma not only to stop the violence, but to change the attitudes of religious intolerance and racial hatred which have come to the fore in the past few weeks. I appeal to the people of Burma to be true to everything that is good and noble in Burmese and Buddhist culture, and to live up to the values of freedom and human rights for which they have been struggling. I make this appeal on several grounds.
Read the entire article – A friend’s appeal to Burma