Anderson concludes successful trip to Burma, demands action from Minister Dion on religious freedom

david-anderson-2FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ottawa, ON – David Anderson, Member of Parliament for Cypress Hills-Grasslands and Official Opposition Critic for International Human Rights and Religious Freedom, has concluded travel to Burma (Myanmar) as part of a fact-finding and solidarity visit with the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB).

From August 16-20, Anderson and Members of Parliament from five other countries met with government officials, religious leaders, and members of civil society to discuss long-term solutions for the state of freedom of religion or belief in the country. On several occasions, the group had discussions specifically addressing the living conditions in Rakhine State and the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority – the largest group of stateless persons in the world.

Some of the most pressing issues for the Rohingya include Myanmar’s 2008 constitution, which gives the military extensive control over rights enshrined for citizens; and the four ‘race and religion protection’ laws that have directly impacted the Rohingya.

“It is encouraging that government, religious, and civil society leaders would like to see changes to the constitution and current laws in order to make them fairer and more equal,” said Anderson. “The new government is moving slowly but is moving in the right direction.”

Despite Burma’s enduring challenges, Anderson congratulated their government for standing up to nationalist voices – such as the Ma Ba Tha, the Buddhist extremists known as the ‘Patriotic Association of Myanmar’. “Over the past few months, the new government has started to make it clear that these voices do not represent them,” continued Anderson. “This will make a positive difference going forward.”

Now back in Canada, Anderson would like to see the Liberal government make more of an effort to protect religious freedom in Burma and on the world stage.

“The Liberals shut down the Office of Religious Freedom and, even after a short visit like this, it is obvious just how important the work of the Office was to religious minorities and the population as a whole in countries like Myanmar,” said Anderson. “I’m still waiting for the Liberals to realize the importance of protecting and promoting religious freedom.”

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