The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Your Words Matter: The #CallItGenocide Campaign Succeeds
March 22, 2022
On March 20, 2022—nearly five years after the Rohingya people were driven from their homes in a vicious campaign of murder, arson, and rape—the U.S. government finally called this crime what it is: genocide. This formal genocide determination is a small but vital step toward justice for the Rohingya people and will go a long way to support Rohingya leaders’ struggle for accountability in the international sphere.
UUSC activists made a real difference by lending their voices to achieve this outcome. Over the past year, thousands of UUSC members and supporters joined the call to urge the State Department to finally call the genocide against the Rohingya by its rightful name and support broader steps for justice and accountability.
- 1,555 UUSC members signed our petition to the Biden administration urging Secretary Antony Blinken to #CallItGenocide.
- UUs around the country downloaded and utilized our congregational action and discussion guide, which walked people through the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s virtual exhibit, “Burma’s Path to Genocide,” and included instructions for how to write to the U.S. Secretary of State urging him to issue the genocide determination. UUSC members also supported this call by attending our virtual discussion with UUSC staff and experts on September 20, 2020 to support the #CallItGenocide campaign.
- More than 500 UUSC supporters have so far taken action with us to support the BURMA Act: a much-needed bill in Congress that would support human rights and accountability in Burma for the genocide as well as other crimes the Tatmadaw has committed against the country’s ethnic groups.
Your words matter. On March 21, 2022, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke before the U.S. Holocaust Museum in a speech that—for the first time—formally announced the U.S. government’s genocide determination. UUSC advocates, as well as our partners and coalition allies, helped to make this historic occasion possible by joining our voices to the demands of Rohingya people around the world who are leading the struggle for justice. The U.S. genocide determination, while overdue, is the fruit of this global solidarity.
As Sec. Blinken acknowledged in his address, the genocide determination is only one of many steps that must be taken to ensure justice for the Rohingya and accountability for the Tatmadaw. Furthermore, the fact that the Tatmadaw were not held accountable earlier for this crime enabled them to go on and commit other atrocities, including the military coup against the country’s civilian leadership in February 2021, as well as the subsequent brutality they have directed against anyone in the country who speaks out against their unjust rule. In the years since they seized power, the military has killed thousands more innocent people and conducted vicious airstrikes and massacres against other ethnic and religious minorities in Burma, including the Karenni people.
The next step is for the U.S. government to put words into tangible action, which must be a fully meaningful and effective act that not only recognizes crimes against the humanity of the Rohingya, but also recognizes the current brutality experienced by every ethnic nationality in the country, including Burmans, which has escalated dramatically since the coup attempt on February 1, 2021. Forceful action must be taken to release the people of Burma from the cycle of violence, beginning with holding the Burmese military accountable for all genocidal acts and crimes against humanity of all the people of Burma.
There is much work still to be done, and UUSC will not stop in our efforts to support our partners and join in their calls for international solidarity. Congress must pass the BURMA Act, and the Biden administration must take further steps to support the Rohingyas’ quest for justice in international mechanisms. Learn more by reading UUSC’s statement responding to the Biden administration’s genocide determination.
Image Credit: iStock— Joel Carillet