Sunday, 30 December 2018

Desmond Tutu's Letter to Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate (1991) and State Counsellor became a "democracy icon who fell from grace". Not only did she not speak out against the genocide taking place in Myanmar. She described the generals in her cabinet as "rather sweet" (via), denied the ethnic cleansing taking place, said the military would operate according to the rule of law (via) and that she had no idea why Muslims were fleeing the country (via).

"I don't think there is ethnic cleansing going on. I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening. I think there is a lot of hostility there - it is Muslims killing Muslims as well, if they think they are co-operating with the authorities." Aung San Suu Kyi
Meanwhile, about 400 villages have been wiped off the map (80% of them in the first three weeks of the military campaign), women are tied to trees and gang-raped, children are assaulted and forced back inside burning houses, people tortured (via), over 725.000 people have been forced to flee to Bangladesh since 25 August 2017 (via and via). In the month after the violence broke out, at least 6.700 Rohingya were killed, at least 730 of them were children under the age of five (via).

There was a discussion whether Aung San Suu Kyi would be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize and it was decided that she could keep it as the rules did not allow for it to be withdrawn (via). However, Canadian MPs voted to strip her of her honourary citizenship (via), she was stripped of her Freedom of Edinburgh reward, Oxford, Glasgow and Newcastle revoked all honourary awards, Sir Bob Geldof called Aung San Suu Kyi a murderer (via), she lost the Freedom of Paris award, Amnesty International's "Ambassador of Conscience Award" (via), Unison's honourary membership, Sheffield's award, Dublin's award, the honourary presidency of the London School of Economics student union, her name was deleted from an exhibition at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the City of London and the University of Bristol expressed their concerns (via)

My dear Aung San Su 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 again.

God bless you.


Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu

Hermanus, South Africa
September 2017

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photograph by Sumaya Hisham via


  1. Thanks for the share.

    1. I find this gentleman extremely impressive.
      Many thanks for leaving a comment, Sam!