Religious Freedom – Burma

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BACKGROUND
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM in BURMA

Religious freedom is specifically provided for in Burma’s 2008 Constitution. Statistics indicate that 89% of the population is Buddhist, 4% Christian, 4% Muslim, 1% Animist, and 2% other. [1]

While government reforms and release of political prisoners are welcome, Burma consistently ranks as one of the most repressive societies in the world. [2] There are indications that the government controls, clergy, censors religious material, destroys religious sites and restricts religious gatherings and construction of places of worship. [3] There is evidence of forced conversions to Buddhism. [4] In December of 2014, draft laws were introduced which would ban interfaith marriages and religious conversion. [5] Internal displacement of minorities is widespread.

The Rohingya minority group have been denied citizenship in Burma. Along with fellow Muslims in areas of Rakhine (Arakan) state, they are barred from worship and from teaching the Muslim faith for most of the year. [6] Many have fled the country to seek refuge, often disappearing or living in refugee camps under poor conditions especially vulnerable to trafficking. It is estimated that 140,000 Rohingya Muslims remain internally displaced. Rohingya Muslims were ineligible to vote in the constitutional referendum that took place in May 2015.

Mid-2013 marked a spike in attacks against Muslim communities; armed mobs and villagers. Buddhist monks destroyed Muslim homes, schools, shops, mosques and other religious sites, killing over 100 people and displacing thousands. [7] The 969 Movement, an organization advocating for Buddhist rights, encouraged hostility towards Muslims, but was not brought to account.

There is evidence that Christians in Kachin and northern Shan states have been targeted by the military. An estimated 100,000 Kachin Christians remain internally displaced. In January 2015, the Chin state and Burmese army continued to carry out abuses targeting Christians. [8]

For further reading:

Sources:

[1] “Burma,” CIA World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bm.html
[2] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/myanmar
[3] USCIRF 2014 Report p. 43-44. See also: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/myanmar
[4] http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/page.aspx?pid=666
[5] https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2015/myanmar
[6] USCIRF 2014 Report, p. 44.
[7] USCIRF 2014 Report, p. 43-44.
[8] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 29.

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