Desmond Tutu has become the second Nobel Peace Prize winner to criticise fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi about her silence over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
The former South African archbishop has urged the country’s de-facto leader to intervene in the crisis, which has seen members of the minority group forced to flee their villages following multiple atrocities.
According to reports, Myanmar troops and Buddhist mobs have been setting fires to the homes of Rohingya – and some have been raped or beheaded.
Ms Suu Kyi has attracted criticism from around the world for failing to speak out about the violence.
Mr Tutu, who won his Nobel Peace Prize in the 1980s for campaigning against racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa, has urged Ms Suu Kyi in a letter to be “courageous and resilient again”.
The 85-year-old also warned that the consequence of her ignorance to the massacre was “too steep”.
In the letter posted on social media, Mr Tutu wrote: “I am now elderly, decrepit and formally retired, but breaking my vow to remain silent on public affairs out of profound sadness.
“The images we are seeing of the suffering of the Rohingya fill us with pain and dread.
“We know that you know that human beings may look and worship differently – and some may have greater firepower than others – but none are superior and none inferior.
“My dear sister: if the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country.”
Mr Tutu’s remarks come after Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote on Twitter that the “world is waiting” for Ms Suu Kyi to act.
The 20-year-old, who is about to begin studying at Oxford University, said: “Every time I see the news, my heart breaks.
“Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same.”
Ms Suu Kyi, now 72, spent much of her life in some form of detention because of her efforts to bring democracy to then military ruled Myanmar, also known as Burma, which won her the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
She is under growing pressure to do more to protect the Rohingya, and a petition calling for her Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked has attracted more than 384,000 signatures.
However, the organisation that oversees the coveted prize has said the honour cannot be withdrawn.
More than 160,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar into Bangladesh in the past two weeks.
Ms Suu Kyi has responded to criticism by saying terrorists are misinforming the media.
She told the Delhi-based network Asian News International: “It is a little unreasonable to expect us to solve the issue in 18 months.
“The situation in Rakhine has been such since many decades. It goes back to pre-colonial times,” she added.