A two-day international conference was held from 26 to 27 May 2015 at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway, focusing on ending the persecution of Burma’s Rohingya Muslim minority with a call from seven Nobel Peace Laureates who described their plight as nothing less than a genocide. 

Desmond Tutu’s appeal calling for an end to the slow genocide of the Rohingya was amplified by six other fellow Nobel Peace laureates: Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland, Jody Williams from the USA, Tawakkol Karman from Yeman, Shirin Ibadi from Iran, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina.

They stated that, “what Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government.”

Rohingya is the name given to Muslims indigenous to the Arakan region of Myanmar (Burma). They form a tiny minority community in Myanmar  numbering around a million compared to the country’s dominant Buddhist population.

Anti-Muslim violence perpetrated by Buddhist extremists and policies of persecution by the Burmese government has resulted in an exodus of Rohingya boat people in the region where no country is willing to take them.

“Nope, nope, nope,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters when asked if Australia was willing to take some of them in, insisting that people seeking a new life need to “come through the front door, not through the back door.”

Meanwhile, a group of Filipino Muslims from academic, civil society, inter religious, government, and business sectors said that they would welcome Rohingya “boatpeople”

An African country, Gambia has expressed its willingness to help and offer possible resettlement for Rohingya Muslims from Arakan while Myanmar continues to deny their citizenship and forces them to migrate.

“It is sacred duty to help alleviate the untold hardships and sufferings these fellow human beings are confronted with, a Gambian government spokesman stated.

Expressing deep concern about regarding the migrants stranded at sea, Gambia called on Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand to assist relocating the migrants to Gambian refugee camps. Gambia also urged “all countries with a conscience” to help provide migrants who are adrift with humanitarian aid, including tents, beds, blankets, medicine and food.

The conference was attended by Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar. Also present were genocide experts, international diplomats, interfaith and human rights leaders. Attendees explored ways to end Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya, as well as foster communal harmony in Burma.

During the Oslo conference, former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik conferred on three leading Myanmar monks who have saved Muslim lives in Burma and opposed Islamophobia the first-ever “World Harmony awards” on behalf of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a 120-year-old interfaith organization. Rev. Seindita, Rev. Withudda, and Rev. Zawtikka, were the three awardees who also chanted Buddhist prayers at the inauguration.

Presenting the awards, the Parliament’s chair, Imam Malik Mujahid said, “These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas.”

The participants from 16 different countries, including leading Rohingya activists and leaders, as well as genocide scholars, adopted the following statement.

Philanthropist George Soros drew a parallel between his childhood memories of life in a Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation in Hungary and the plight of the Rohingya after visiting a Rohingya neighborhood in Sittwe which he called a “ghetto”. “In 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I, too was a Rohingya…The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” he said, in a pre-recorded address to the Oslo conference.

Full Text of the Communiqué Adopted by the Oslo Conference:

Today the Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Persecution of the Rohingya ended. The conference was held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen, Oslo, Norway on May 26 & 27, 2015.

After two days of deliberations the conference issue the following urgent appeal to the international community, based on the following conclusions:

  1. The pattern of systematic human rights abuses against the ethnic Rohingya people entails crimes against humanity including the crime of genocide;
  2. The Myanmar government’s denial of the existence of the Rohingya as a people violates the right of the Rohingya to self-identify;
  3. The international community is privileging economic interests in Myanmar and failing to prioritize the need to end its systematic persecution and destruction of the Rohingya as an ethnic group.

The call by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to end Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya made during the Oslo conference is supported by six additional Nobel Peace Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ibadi, Leymah Gbowee, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

The United Nations and the international community have an urgent responsibility to stop Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya.

As the home country of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the conference urges the Government of Norway to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar’s genocide over its economic interests in that country, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil.

The conference calls upon the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the United Nations (UN) and other relevant international actors to take all possible measures to pressure the Government of Myanmar to do the following:

  • to immediately end its policies and practices of genocide;
  • to restore full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingya;
  • to institute the right of return for all displaced Rohingya;
  • to effectively provide the Rohingya with all necessary protection; and
  • to actively promote and support reconciliation between communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

Oslo, Norge, 26.05.2015. Photographs from the Oslo Rohyinga conference. Photo: Christopher Olss¯n.

Three Buddhist monks who have made statements against anti-Rohingya hate and one of whom saved 1,000 Muslims from an angry mob, and a Burmese Christian bishop stand with Rohingya leadership and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, a Norwegian bishop, and a Norwegian Imam for an interfaith prayer for peace and reconciliation in the Rakhine/Arakan state of Burma.  Front row (left to right): Nurul Islam, Maung Tun Khin, Kyaw Min, Wai Wai Nu, Daw Khin Hla.  Back row (left to right): Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Bishop Tor Jorgensen, Rev. Sein Di Ta, Bishop Rev. Zaw Win Aung, Rev. Zaw Ti Ka, Rev. We Thudha, Imam Hamid Ali Farooq.

Oslo, Norge, 26.05.2015. Photographs from the Oslo Rohyinga conference. Photo: Christopher Olss¯n.

Former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik (left) and Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid (middle), Chairman of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR), present Rev. We Thudha (right) with the Parliament of the World’s Religions’ inaugural World Harmony Award on behalf of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, for fostering compassion, kindness, and harmony among faith communities in Myanmar.  Rev. We Thudha was recognized for turning back an angry mob from a monastery where he housed fleeing Muslims.

Oslo, Norge, 26.05.2015. Photographs from the Oslo Rohyinga conference. Photo: Christopher Olss¯n.

Kurdish flutist Kemal Hassanpour plays for the assembled guests of the Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of the Rohingyas.