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(Rangoon, Burma, January 21, 2014) A new briefing paper published today by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) highlighted violations of religious freedom for Chin Christians in Burma throughout 2013, and called on the government to put the issue at the top of its reforms agenda for 2014.

The paper draws attention to ongoing State spending on Buddhist infrastructure, while restrictions remain in place on building Christian infrastructure. It also highlights threats, intimidation, and discriminatory practices against Chin Christians by local government officials.

Salai Bawi Pi, Country Coordinator at CHRO said, “The main problem is that the government treats Buddhism as the de-facto State religion in the country. That seriously undermines religious freedom for Chin Christians.”

The briefing highlights how several events to honour visits to Chin State by high-ranking government officials like President Thein Sein and Lower House Speaker Thura Shwe Mann were organized on Sunday mornings, at the same time as local church services. Such events require mandatory attendance by civil servants. According to CHRO, this disregard for local custom in predominantly Christian Chin State continues a decades-old pattern and violates the right to assemble for religious worship.

Salai Bawi Pi continued, “This sends the wrong message. Burma is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society. The government has promised to relax Ministry of Religious Affairs’ regulations on securing permission to build and renovate churches, but there is little evidence of that at the Chin State level. We even saw local government involvement in threats to burn down a Chin Christian village late last year.”

CHRO’s briefing also highlights positive efforts by Chin stakeholders to challenge the government on the issue of religious freedom, including at the Chin National Conference held in Hakha from 12-15 November last year. A panel discussion on freedom of religion belief drew up twelve recommendations to take forward with the authorities. Echoing those recommendations, CHRO called on the government to guarantee freedom of religious worship and assembly for all religions, and to replace the Ministry of Religious Affairs with an independent and impartial religious affairs commission with a mandate to address issues of religious discrimination.

“Freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right. We urge the government to make real, tangible progress on protecting that right in 2014, by taking forward the Chin National Conference recommendations,” said Salai Bawi Pi.

For enquiries, please contact Salai Bawi Pi, Country Program Coordinator at CHRO (Burmese, Lai, English) (+95) (0)9250008451

Click to view CHRO Press Release (English version)

Click to view CHRO Press Release (Burmese version)

Click to view CHRO Briefing (English version)

Click to view CHRO Briefing (Burmese version)