We Failed Rwanda; Let’s Stand for the #Rohingya

Indonesia Muslim Rally
Indonesia Muslim Rally

It’s been almost 20 years since the Rwandan genocide. We were too stupid, callous, or indifferent to stop it, and Senator Dallaire has more than a few words on the topic.

Granted, the WWW was just getting going in the early 1990s, so we didn’t have the kind of viral campaigns we see now, like Avaaz’s campaign to stop the imminent genocide of the Rohingya in Burma [see below]. It started on Canada/Settler Day and accumulated over 300,000 signatures in less than two days. They’re going for 1,000,000.

Genocide is perhaps the surest sign that humanity is reaching for profound depravity.

Why would a country not issue birth certificates to babies of one cultural group?

How can a people cultivate such hatred? How can a people ignore systematic execution? How can a people be blind to dehumanization? I wrote about it yesterday, with Canada’s nice-guy self-concept combined with a studied self-delusion about our generations of abuse of the first peoples.

Maybe that sheds some light on what is happening in Burma. Maybe that also sheds some light on why Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade has sent over two dozen emails about expanding trade relations with Burma in the last 50 weeks, yet only one email that had any reference to the Rohingya. If they are hated for taking away jobs from other Burmese, Canada should stop pouring kerosene on that fire.

Maybe it also explains how Al Jazeera has some significant coverage of the Rohingya, but how the CBC doesn’t.

Whatever the case, the Avaaz platform of viral campaigns for social justice is a proven model, and a welcome development from those who spent the 1980s getting together one Friday each month to jointly write letters to support Amnesty International campaigns.

Signing on to shine a spotlight on an approaching genocide is a useful act, but it’s not a final one. It is an opening act. The rest of your responsibility lies in forcing our government to see ALL Burmese as humans first, not sweatshop labour.

You can let your Member of Parliament know what you want if you know your postal code.

You can let the prime minister, foreign affairs minister, leader of the opposition, opposition foreign affairs critic, Liberal party leader and Liberal foreign affairs critic know what you want them to do to help the Rohingya by emailing this article to these folks, along with your personal message: romeo.dallaire@sen.parl.gc.ca, stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca, john.baird@parl.gc.ca, thomas.mulcair@parl.gc.ca, paul.dewar@parl.gc.ca, justin.trudeau@parl.gc.ca, dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca.

Most people didn’t know who the Rwandans were until it was too late, and 800,000 of them were dead. Right now, the fate of Burma’s Rohingya people is hanging by a thread. Racist thugs have distributed leaflets threatening to wipe out this small Burmese minority. Already children have been hacked to death and unspeakable murders committed. All signs are pointing to a coming horror, unless we act.

Genocides happen because we don’t get concerned enough until the crime is committed. The Rohingya are a peaceful and very poor people. They’re hated because their skin is darker and the majority fear they’re ‘taking jobs away’. There are 800,000 of them, and they could be gone if we don’t act.

- from Burma: Stop the next Rwanda

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Upright, left-leaning.
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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3 thoughts on “We Failed Rwanda; Let’s Stand for the #Rohingya”

  1. Well, I’ll probably sign that campaign, but I have serious reservations about Avaaz, which never seems to have met a NATO intervention it didn’t like. They were gung ho on bombing Libya, which was when I withdrew from their mailing list. I don’t want to think what they’ve probably been pushing for on Syria.

    . . . Looking at that petition, I notice it’s addressed to the presidents of France and England. Which, OK, they’re in the EU and the pres of Myanmar is going there, but why just France and England but not, say, Spain or Italy or Holland or Ireland? Because they’re fine upstanding sub-imperialist powers with big militaries? What might be the “all means necessary” that I’d be urging them to use? Where is the UN in all this? Lest we forget, Romeo Dallaire was a UN peacekeeper. If the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda had been expanded, while maintaining the UN mandate of neutrality and disinterest, that would have been useful. But if England and France, or the US say, had invaded Rwanda “to stop the violence” . . . it’s hard to imagine how it could have become worse, but they would have found a way to make it so.

    Something must be done, no argument there. And, this is something, I guess. But I’m feeling uneasy about stretching to “this must be done”.

    On a side note, why is this petition calling the place “Burma”? I don’t think they call themselves “Burma” these days. I think I’d be cheesed if people from there did a petition about how we’re treating First Nations and it called us “Canuckistan” or some such. Gives it a bit of a “white man’s burden” feel–who cares what the natives call themselves, right?

    1. thanks for your thought-provoking comments.

      regarding “burma,” for the longest time when the junta running that place called themselves myanmar, i refused to call it that.

      an interesting observation: the federal government used to call it myanmar. now they are calling it burma, so i’m assuming the junta is ok with that.

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