Press Statement on a protest against religious persecution against
Chin Christians in Burma
January 29, 2005
Chin Christian community and supporters of Burma’s democratic and human rights movement are gathering in front of the Burmese (Myanmar) Embassy in Ottawa to protest Burmese military junta’s policy of religious persecution and discrimination against ethnic Chin Christians.
With this demonstration, we are joining other Chin communities and their supporters in Washington DC, Malaysia and New Delhi to condemn Burma’s military junta’s absolute disregard for freedom of religion and fundamental human rights.
On January 3, 2005 a giant Christian cross on top of Mount Boi near Matupi town of Chin State was destroyed by Burmese troops on direct order of Colonel San Aung, one of the highest ranking military commanders in the region. The 50-foot tall concrete cross was erected by local Christians at the cost three and a half million Kyats. After destroying the cross, troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) hoisted a Burmese flag as a sign of victory against Christianity in Chin State where more than 90 percent of the populations are Christians. There are reports the regime is making plans to construct a Buddhist pagoda on the site.
This latest destruction is part of a larger and systematic effort by the military regime to persecute Chin Christians in order to expand the influence of Buddhism in Chinland. Since the early 1990s, the military regime has destroyed more than a dozen crosses in Matupi, Tonzang, Falam, Hakha and Thantlang Townships, and has demolished several Church buildings. At the same time, the regime has built Buddhist pagodas and sponsored the mass migration of Buddhist monks to Chinland.
Burma is a country characterized by its religious and ethnic diversity. The two Union constitutions of post independent Burma thus recognize a degree of religious freedom for all citizens. And religious freedom is a universally accepted fundamental human right to which all human beings are entitled. As a member of the international community, Burma is obliged to respect a universal norm of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion and other fundamental human freedoms.
Burma’s military regime has no moral or legal justification for persecuting Chin Christians on the basis of their religious affiliation or ethnic identity. There is no moral basis for the junta to use the name of any religion, including Buddhism to which it claims to adhere, to justify the persecution of other religions. It is an insult to Buddhism itself, a religion of peace and compassion, for the Burmese military regime to use it as a disguise to achieve political objectives by persecuting people of non-Buddhist religion.
In December of 2004, Burma hosted a World Buddhists Summit amidst questions about its worthiness to organize such international meeting given the regime’s abysmal record of treating religious minorities and absolute disregard for fundamental human rights. Around the same time that this meeting took place in Rangoon, Burmese troops from Light Infantry Battalion (304) desecrated a Christian cross in Matupi of southern Chinland.
We condemn in the strongest terms the action of the State Peace and Development Council of the destruction on January 3, 2005 of a Christian cross in Matupi. We call on the regime to immediately abandon its policy of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities in Burma.
To this end we urge the junta:
To respect and observe the universally accepted fundamental human rights, including the right to religion as set out in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1947 and 1974 Constitution of the Union of Burma
To cease the illegal destruction and demolishment of Christian cross, churches and other religious buildings
To lift restriction on Christian churches to renovate or build new churches and religious buildings
To cease all state-sponsored activities of force-promoting Buddhism, including by abducting and force-converting of Christian children to Buddhism, forcing Christians to contribute to money and human labour for construction of Buddhist pagodas and statues, and targeting Christian leaders, evangelists and missionaries for abuses
We call on our host country, Canada and the international community to condemn the Burmese military junta’s policies of discrimination and persecution against Chin Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities in Burma. We call on Canada to assume a more proactive and effective role in the international effort to restore democracy and human rights in Burma
29 January 2005
For more information please contact
Chin Human Rights Organization