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Joseph McNamara, Editor
Joseph McNamara, Editor

When Unthinkable Becomes the Norm
By Joseph McNamara, Editor

Checking the daily news headlines just doesn’t seem the same anymore, especially for seasoned news junkies like myself. It’s not that the delivery system has changed—instant online news and alerts are great, better than ever. It’s not that the nature of the news has changed—it hasn’t. Bad news still travels fast, and good news slow to not at all.

What has changed are the severity and frequency of events that we previously considered “unthinkable.” Consider the daily carnage in Syria, beginning with the Assad-led government’s atrocities against its own citizens in 2011, continuing with its genocide of more than 1,400 people with chemical weapons in 2014, and the Islamic State’s increasing horrific violence and killing of innocent civilians. Unthinkable. But what’s worse is that even after those headlines, the atrocities in Syria continued, and today, the death toll has reached 400,000, and over 9.5 million people have been displaced, forced from their homes.

Add to the atrocities in Syria similar events across the world—including steady drumbeats of horror in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and other places, each unthinkable and each becoming part of the almost normal stream of headlines.

The cover story of this Courier issue highlights one such ongoing tragedy: the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar. The Rohingya are a people, totaling nearly two million, who are not just homeless but stateless. After their own government disowned them, no other government has claimed them. Even their name, Rohingya, has been prohibited from being spoken in their home country, and they are being systematically pushed from its borders. What’s more, after decades of sporadic media coverage of atrocities behind the scenes, recent reports acknowledge strong evidence that genocide may already be happening.

So when is enough enough? The world knows the Rohingya are being targeted and pushed from their home. We know they have nowhere to go. We know that each day of their lives is full of unthinkable fear and peril.

This month, the Stanley Foundation adds our Courier voice to the slowly increasing chorus of demand that the international community deliver a solution for the Rohingya and for other populations victimized by atrocities. Sadly, for those of us who closely follow world events, the unthinkable is becoming all too common. Tragically, for the Rohingya, the unthinkable is the norm.

Nothing could be more wrong, nor more urgent to stop.


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The Winter 2016 issue of Courier features policy insights for the President-elect and new US leadership to improve our peace and security in nuclear policy, genocide prevention, and climate change. The issue also includes an in-depth interview with a survivor of the Phnom Penh, Cambodia genocide in the late 1970s. The full Winter 2016 issue. PDF (1.0 MB) Subscribe for FREE.

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