24 Jan Christian group says religious conversion bill a major setback

Written by Mizzima Published in Myanmar Read 2887 times
People walking in a street in Mawlamyine city, Mon State, Myanmar, 06 July 2013. EPA/LYNN BO BO
Myanmar is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. People walking in a street in Mawlamyine city, Mon State, Myanmar, July 6, 2013. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

Christian Solidarity Worldwide has expressed serious concern that a new bill restricting religious conversions being discussed in Myanmar’s Parliament which could become a major setback for religious freedom and human rights in the country, according to a press release issued January 23.

The UK-based Christian organisation, working for religious freedom through advocacy, expressed concern about people’s freedom to choose their religion, and said the proposed legislation was opposed by civil society in Myanmar and the international community.

If implemented, the law will require anyone wishing to change their religion to apply for permission to an 11-member committee, consisting of officials responsible for religious affairs, immigration, women’s affairs and education.

CSW Chief Executive Mr Mervyn Thomas said, “The proposed law on religious conversion would be a major setback for religious freedom and human rights in Burma.”

CSW says the law is one of a package of four bills aimed at the “protection of race and religion,” originally drafted by the Committee for the Protection of Religion and Nationality, known as Ma Ba Tha, led by Buddhist monks but developed by a 12-member commission appointed by the President, and submitted by the government to Parliament last year.

The other three bills focus on restricting inter-faith marriage, monogamy and population control.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Ms Yanghee Lee highlighted the “significant human rights concerns” relating to the proposed legislation on religious conversions and inter-faith marriage in a statement earlier this month during her visit to the country.

She warned that if these bills are passed they will “legalise discrimination, in particular against religious and ethnic minorities and against women.”

In a statement released on January 22, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which has previously described the legislation as “irreparably flawed,” warning that it risks stoking violence and discrimination against religious minorities, reiterated that it will “further restrict religious freedom and discriminate against all non-Buddhists, particularly male Muslims, in religious conversions and marriages.”

Last modified on Sunday, 25 January 2015 20:27