Groups Urge UN Chief To Halt Myanmar’s ‘Crackdown On Religious Freedom’


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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – More than 100 rights groups and individuals urged United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to address “increased” religious rights violations in Myanmar, also known as Burma.

Advocacy group Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told Worthy that it had joined the appeal from the Burma Human Rights Network group and 112 other organizations and persons.

They asked Guterres to “personally lead high-level efforts” to address “increased violations of the right to freedom of or belief” since the February 1 coup.

The army overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, alleging irregularities in an election swept by her National League for Democracy party in November 2020.

However, the then electoral commission and international monitors said the army accusations were wrong.

More than 1,000 civilians, including Christians, have been killed in Myanmar since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

MILITARY DENIAL

The military authorities deny the death count and say their seizure of power should not be called a coup because it was in line with the constitution.

However, in Wednesday’s letter, advocacy groups raised concerns about “increased hate speech” towards minority Christians and Muslims in the country.

It highlighted the cases of Pastor Cung Biak Hum, who was shot dead on September 18, and Pastor Thian Lian Sang, held in custody since his arrest on September 16.

They also mentioned the Mohnhyin and Butaryone Street Mosques, raided on June 3 in Mohnhyin city.

“The Burmese Military must end all hostilities against religious minorities, release all religious and political prisoners, step down from power, and allow the democratically elected government to resume.”

Worthy News also documented the destruction of churches and army attacks against Christian minorities.

ARMS EMBARGO

The letter’s signatories reiterated calls for “a global arms embargo” and targeted on the military and their enterprises.

They said U.N. Secretary-General Guterres should “lead high-level efforts to increase diplomatic pressure on the junta. And mobilize countries in the region to deploy their influence to end the military’s violence and repression.”

However, Benedict Rogers, CSW’s Senior Analyst on East Asia and author of three books on Myanmar, said: “So far, the human rights community’s repeated calls for action regarding the ongoing crisis in Myanmar have met with disappointingly insufficient action.”

Rogers stressed that “Verbal condemnations and the sanctions imposed on the [Burmese army known as] “Tatmadaw” thus far are welcome. But there remains a need to take this further, including through the establishment of a global arms embargo as a matter of urgency.”

Kyaw Win, Executive Director of Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN), agreed, saying in publisher remarks that “Religious-based ethno-nationalism is the root cause of all the problems in Burma.”

The military, the official said, “is using the oppression of religious minorities as a free ride to establish their absolute authority. It is time for everyone, regardless of our background, to stand up against oppression.”

BUDDHIST NATIONALISM

Nearly 4.4 million of Myanmar’s roughly 55 million population are Christian, but the majority religion is Buddhism, according to researchers.

Buddhist nationalism is extreme in Myanmar and drives much of the persecution of minority groups such as Christians, rights groups say.

The coup has added to pressure on converts to the Christian , who reportedly already face persecution from their families and communities for leaving the Buddhist system.

Communities aiming to stay ‘Buddhist only’ makes life for Christian families impossible by not allowing them to use resources such as water, said persecution watchdog Open Doors.

“Non-traditional groups experience opposition too, especially those located in rural areas and/or are known for evangelistic activity.”

Myanmar is also the scene of the longest civil in the world, which began in 1948. It affects, among others, the predominantly Christian states of , Karen, and Shan. Believers are vulnerable to persecution by insurgent groups and the army.

Besides the coup, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought added challenges as “many Christians” are “deliberately overlooked in the distribution of government aid,” Open Doors noted.

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