May 27, 2009

64 Words for Aung San Suu Kyi

Today marks a very sad anniversary for Burma’s pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi: 19 years since the vote in which she led her party to a victory the military refused to recognize. Since then this woman, who has been detained for over 13 years by the Burmese regime for campaigning for human rights and democracy, symbolizes the struggle of Burma’s people to be free.

As it was not enough, starting from May 18 she is facing trial in Burma after being arrested on May 14 for breaking the terms of her house arrest, which forbids visitors. In fact, an American man, John Yettaw, swam across Inya Lake and refused to leave her house. Aung San Suu Kyi is now being held in Insein Prison, a prison notorious for its terrible conditions and horrific treatment of prisoners, who are routinely subjected to torture and often denied medical treatment (there are serious concerns for Aung San Suu Kyi’s health in these conditions, particularly as she has recently been seriously ill).

But she has committed no crime, she is the victim of crime, and the United Nations has ruled that Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is illegal under international law, and also under Burmese law. Furthermore, the United Nations Security Council has told the dictatorship that they must release Aung San Suu Kyi. But it was no use.

What can we do for her? There is a site, 64 for Suu, where anyone from around the world can leave a message of support for Aung San Suu Kyi. The idea is that of gathering hundreds of thousand of messages by her 64th Birthday, June 19, 2009. You can leave / view video, text, twitter and image messages. What about trying it out?

Robert Imbelli : Conflict and Hope at the University of Notre Dame

As everybody knows the degree “honoris causa” given on May 17 to President Barack Obama by the Catholic university of Notre Dame, in South Bend, Indiana, has produced many protests. In particular, the most drastic have been Michael Novak (see here) and George Weigel (see here), namely the standard-bearers of neoconservative Catholic thought.

Yet, amid the storm of controversy, Obama’s speech has been little read and analyzed. With few exceptions, among them, here in Italy, that of Giuliano Ferrara, the editor of Il Foglio newspaper and “a commentator beyond suspicion” (the most “Ratzingerian” of the secular defenders of unborn life), as Vaticanist Sandro Magister puts it. In fact, Ferrara published in his newspaper the full speech in Italian translation, “seeing in it common ground on which the “pro-life” and “pro-choice” can work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortion.”

Even less read and analyzed was another important speech: the one by Judge John T. Noonan, decorated in 1984 with the highest honor of this Catholic university, the medal “Laetare.” To fill this void Robert Imbelli, a priest of the diocese of New York who teaches theology at Boston College, wrote this article, published yesterday by Sandro Magister in his website. It analyzes both speeches, by Obama and Noonan. “It highlights their elements of conflict,” says Magister, “but above all of hope. With incisive, surprising observations.”

[T]hough on one level the President appeared primarily focused on respectful dialogue and “fair-minded words;” on a deeper level he seemed to be in search of binding principles that were, perhaps, at variance with his own stated positions. Indeed, these principles, if given full scope, might even lead the President (not without personal cost) to reconsider some of the practices he currently endorses.
Significantly, Noonan chose a striking example as illustration: the dispute between President Abraham Lincoln and the former slave, Frederick Douglass. It was Douglass’ moral clarity and conviction that helped guide Lincoln’s own moral compass to the point where he issued the “Emancipation Proclamation,” freeing the slaves in the secessionist states. The implication, subtly but unmistakably put forward, was that, like Lincoln, whom he reveres, President Obama may also come to greater clarity regarding the pressing moral issue of abortion.