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Burma: Chin Activists in London to Highlight Violations of Religious Freedom

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide  •  September 10, 2012

A delegation of ethnic Chin activists from Burma will visit London this week, to highlight violations of religious freedom by the government in Burma.

Hosted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the group from the Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) will present a new report, “Threats to Our Existence: Persecution of Ethnic Chin Christians in Burma”, at a meeting in the House of Commons tomorrow organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma. The meeting will be chaired by David Burrowes MP.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow MP, who visited the Chin people on the India-Burma border with CSW in 2008, will meet the delegation. The group will also brief individual MPs, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials, NGOs, and media.

The report was released in Bangkok last week, and highlights a decades-long pattern of religious freedom violations, including the destruction of thirteen large Christian crosses, four of them since President Thein Sein’s government took power, the construction of fifteen Buddhist pagodas or monasteries by authorities using Chin Christians as forced labour, and more than 40 separate incidents of torture or ill-treatment, targeted at Chin on the dual basis of ethnicity and religion.  The report also details ongoing “restrictions on constructing and renovating Christian infrastructure, destruction of Christian crosses, violations of freedom of religious assembly, and threats, intimidation, and harassment of pastors and missionaries” under the current government.

CHRO outlines concerns about the government’s Border Areas National Races Youth Development Training Schools, known as “Na Ta La” schools, in which Chin Christian youth  are prevented from practising Christianity and face coercion to convert to Buddhism. The report urges the Government of Burma to lift all restrictive and discriminatory measures placed on Christian activity, end the policy of forced assimilation and other measures that amount to ethnic and religious persecution, invite the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit Burma, and calls for the abolition of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which has been implicated in human rights violations.

The report follows CHRO’s previous report, “Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide against Chin Christians in Burma”, published in 2004, and CSW’s report, “Carrying the Cross: The military regime’s campaign of restriction, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma”, in 2007.

Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader at CSW, who wrote the foreword to the report, said: “We are delighted to work together with CHRO to bring this very important but often overlooked issue of violations of freedom of religion or belief to the attention of policy makers and parliamentarians in Britain and in the international community. We have seen some positive and welcome steps forward towards reform in Burma in the past year, but if Burma is to be a genuine democratic society, it must stop the persecution of ethnic and religious minorities and ensure that freedom of religion or belief, as well as other human rights, are protected and promoted. We hope that the Government of Burma, and policy makers in the international community, will study this valuable report and its recommendations, and ensure that policies which restrict or repress religious freedom are changed. We particularly call on the Government of Burma to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief to visit the country, and be allowed to travel to Chin State and other parts of the country without hindrance, and engage in a meaningful dialogue with the government, the democratic opposition, ethnic nationalities, religious leaders and civil society, to ensure that violations of freedom of religion or belief are investigated, freedom of religion or belief is protected, and inter-religious harmony is promoted.”

For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Matthew Jones at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 20 8329 0063, email matthewjones@csw.org.uk or visit www.csw.org.uk.


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This post is in: Press Release

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