Friday, 09 February 2007
By BosNewsLife News Center
Burma’s military government denies rights abuses. RANGOON/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)
A delegation of predominantly Christian Chin and Kachin activists ended a visit to the US Friday, February 9, after warning
American officials of “the continuing violations of human rights,” charges denied by the Burmese military government.
Their week-long visit to Washington, DC, came as Burma condemned a report accusing the military of persecuting minority Christians, saying the country “guarantees religious freedom for all.”
The denial followed a recent report by the London-based group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which accuses Burma of using “a range of tactics” to suppress Christians.
On Wednesday, February 7, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, seen as a mouthpiece of the junta, carried alleged statements from the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Myanmar, Myanmar Council of Churches and Yangon Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) “denouncing the findings” of the report.
It said the CSW report titled ‘Carrying the Cross: the military regime’s campaign of restriction, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma’ also known as Myanmar, was “aimed at obstructing religious harmony in the country.”
However in remarks to BosNewsLife, the reports author, Benedict Rogers, said the statements from the Myanmar Council of Churches and the Catholic Bishops Conference “contradict statements made by these church bodies in the past, as cited in the report, suggesting the junta’s reaction to the report is only a desperate attempt to divert attention from the truth of the findings.”
The New Light of Myanmar also said the report was part of continuing efforts by the United States “to slander” Burma.
Last year, the United States issued a report accusing the government of infiltrating religious groups’ meetings, preventing Buddhist clergy from teaching about human rights and limiting the repair of Christian and Muslim places of worship.
HUMAN RIGHTS CAUCUS
In a briefing organized by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Task Force for International Religious Freedom, the delegation also highlighted this week alleged violations of religious freedom in Burma, as well as human trafficking, sexual violence and forced labor.
“This has been the first time the Chin and Kachin people have been able to raise their voice at very high levels politically in the United States and the European Union. We believe our cry has been heard and now the world must act,” said Salai Bawi Lian Mang, Director of the Chin Human Rights Organization.
The delegation including representatives of the Chin Human Rights Organization, the Women’s League of Chinland and the Kachin Women’s Association-Thailand also met US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Ambassador John Hanford, senior policy advisers to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, as well as the National Security Council at the White House. In addition the group spoke with church organizations and human rights groups during the week.
Washington DC was the final stop of the group, which also visited London, Brussels and Berlin.
“This has been a truly historic opportunity to raise international awareness about the plight of the Chin and Kachin peoples in Burma, and to urge the international community to take action to bring an end to the suffering of all the people of Burma,” said Rogers.
“We will continue to do all we can to highlight the gross violations of human rights perpetrated by Burma’s brutal military regime, including the violations of religious freedom, the use of rape as a weapon of war and other crimes against humanity,” added Rogers who is also CSW’s Advocacy Officer for South Asia. (With BosNewsLife reporting and reports from Burma and Washington