Pope Francis issued a stinging criticism of atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority on Wednesday, saying they had been tortured and killed simply because they wanted to observe their own culture and Muslim faith.
The pope’s remarks at his weekly audience followed last week’s U.N. report that said security forces in the north of the country had carried out mass killings, gang rapes and had burned villages.
“They have been suffering for years, they have been tortured, killed simply because they wanted to live their culture and their Muslim faith,” the pope said.
“They have been thrown out of Myanmar, moved from one place to the other because no one wants them. But they are good people, peaceful people. They are not Christian. They are good people. They are our brothers and sisters,” he said.
After the report was issued on Friday, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi had promised to investigate the allegations.
Myanmar, a mostly Buddhist country, had previously denied almost all allegations of human rights abuses against Muslims in the north. The pope is expected to visit neighbouring Bangladesh later this year.
Witnesses cited in the U.N. report testified to “the killing of babies, toddlers, children, women and elderly; opening fire at people fleeing; burning of entire villages; massive detention; massive and systematic rape and sexual violence; deliberate destruction of food and sources of food”.
Thank you for reporting on the condition of the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar). I appreciate your article.
In media reporting the Rohingya’s tragic suffering is sometimes misrepresented as communal violence, when in reality they are the victims of a persecution. Identifying the situation in Burma (Myanmar) accurately is very helpful.
Despite denial and contrary claims by the Burmese (Myanmar) government, seven Nobel laureates – Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel- have described the persecution as a genocide, and along with the international community agree the Rohingyas are indigenous to Burma (Myanmar).
The Lowenstein Clinic, Yale University Law School, in their study to what is happening in Burma, amounts to “strong evidence” of genocide coordinated by the Burmese (Myanmar) government against the Rohingya people. It assessed evidence, including documents and testimonials provided by Al Jazeera and Fortify Rights.
Former Special Rapporteur Jose Quintana speaks of the movement towards genocide and the current rapporteur speaks of "worrying signs" of genocide.
While it seems clear that the idea of genocide is embarrassing to the international community, it cannot and should not be for writers, journalists and news outlets. They have an obligation to report the facts, and report free from the burden of geopolitics.
The Dalai Lama has publicly urged fellow Nobel Peace Laureate Aung Sun to speak out on behalf of the Rohingya community and help stem the violence in her country against Rohingya by Buddhist extremist groups.
The situation of the Rohingya has deteriorated significantly since large-scale “clearing operation”attacks against Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2016. Aung Sung lost much of her credibility as an icon for democracy, by refusing to speak out on behalf of the Rohingya minority. Neither the USDP nor the NLD have done anything to reinstate the Rohingya’s right to vote, reverse discriminatory laws, and stop extremist violence.
There is no question that the human rights situation must be addressed. I greatly appreciate your article and am hopeful that the awareness it raises will contribute in stopping the ongoing genocide in Myanmar.
Burma Task Force
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