Tomorrow, the world will observe the International Day of Peace. The theme is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.” It honours the spirit of TOGETHER, a global initiative “that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life” (UN).
Here in TT, Ruben Barbado, protection officer at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, continues to collaborate with the Living Water Community. An article in the Express on August 5 highlights the fact that there is a rise of refugees in TT. Barbado stated:
“In 2017, in just the first three months, asylum applications have more than doubled … there are currently 640 refugees, asylum seekers and other persons of concern in TT … Detainees at the detention centre have complained about the squalid conditions at the centre, with one case of a Chinese national attempting suicide. There is also a case of a detainee who has been imprisoned at the detention centre for five years…
“TT does not have legislation to legally help refugees, but he said a refugee policy adopted in 2014 by the Cabinet envisions the Government providing recognised refugees a permit of stay, work authorisation and access to public assistance…
“UNHCR figures at the end of 2016 show 65.6 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide and, of this, some 22.5 million are refugees. He noted ten million are stateless and, of this lot, only a mere 189,300 refugees have been resettled.”
Current images on social media of hundreds of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority burnt to death are heart-breaking. UN officials estimate the death toll at more than 1,000 and that the number of refugees who have fled to Bangladesh due to indiscriminate violence by Myanmar’s military has reached more than 400,000 since August 25.
The UK Guardian printed Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s letter to Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto political leader, stating: “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.”
He has joined “the growing list of voices calling on Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to protect Myanmar’s persecuted Muslim minority.”
UK Guardian journalist George Monbiot is just one of thousands of people calling for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her 1991 Nobel Prize, stating, inter alia:
“She has denied the very identity of the people being attacked, asking the US ambassador not to use the term Rohingya … I doubt she has read the UN human rights report on the treatment of the Rohingyas, released in February. The crimes it revealed were horrific. It documents the mass rape of women and girls, some of whom died as a result of the sexual injuries they suffered. It shows how children and adults had their throats slit in front of their families.
“It reports the summary executions of teachers, elders and community leaders; helicopter gunships randomly spraying villages with gunfire; people shut in their homes and burnt alive; a woman in labour beaten by soldiers, her baby stamped to death as it was born. It details the deliberate destruction of crops and the burning of villages to drive entire populations out of their homes; people trying to flee gunned down in their boats … malnutrition ravages the Rohingya, affecting 80,000 children.”
Malala Yousafzai, the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, said recently “the world is waiting” for Suu Kyi to act and to condemn the “tragic and shameful” treatment of the Myanmar’s Rohingya people.
Let’s pray and work for peace in our country and in the world.
Leela Ramdeen is chair of the Catholic Commission for Social Justice