Myanmar – the world must act


Sir, –The sorrow we feel when reading of the cruel massacre of Rohingya civilians is all the more poignant because we recognise that it is only a matter of luck that we were not born in a place or time where such atrocities occur.

It is hard to imagine ourselves as the perpetrators of grotesque violence. We struggle to understand how anyone could commit such vile and cruel acts against their fellow human beings. Yet most of the Myanmar soldiers are ordinary people. Many no doubt, in their normal lives, act with courtesy and kindness. In other circumstances they would behave just like us, yet they slaughtered vast numbers of their neighbours.

The obviously depraved do commit evil acts, but so do ordinary, everyday people. We recognise our good fortune in not being a victim of atrocities; we should not forget that we are also lucky not to be part of a group which has normalised such crimes. Evil must be fought and the oppressed defended, but part of the struggle against evil is guarding against moral complacency in ourselves. The world must act to oppose and prevent war crimes; it must also act to protect the types of institutes and alliances that create and maintain peace.

We often dismiss the tedious rules and courtesies of modern Europe as an unnecessary encumbrance which holds back business and stifles enterprise. It is easy to overlook the EU’s true value. As right-wing rhetoric gains popular support we need to remember our own history and recognise that a system, however clunky, which enables cooperation and compromise among hundreds of millions of people is something to be valued, protected and if possible promoted elsewhere.

The persecution Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority is deplorable. The world must do more than just sympathise. We must try to prevent further atrocities. Those responsible must be held accountable. We must also acknowledge that once again we are seeing the human capacity for rapacious brutality and recognise that we need to protect the systems and institutes we have developed that help us avoid such atrocities in our own societies, and encourage the development of similar mechanisms in countries that still suffer unchecked violence. – Yours, etc,


Templeogue, Dublin 6W.