In response to recent forcible church closures in Rangoon, at least 33 British Members of Parliament expressed their grave concern by signing an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) on Tuesday.
At least 100 churches in Burma’s former capital city, Rangoon, have been closed down and 50 pastors forced to sign documents promising to stop holding church services, under threat of imprisonment if failure to act in accordance with a command, CSW’s reports said.
The EDM, proposed by John Bercow MP, Co-Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Burma, called on the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief to investigate violations of religious freedom in Burma.
CSW’s Advocacy Director, Tina Lambert said: “This recent crackdown on Christian activity in Rangoon is a worrying development and a serious violation of religious freedom. I am delighted that John Bercow and other MPs have taken this step to call for respect for religious freedom in Burma, and for the regime to stop its policies of discrimination and persecution of religious minorities, particularly Christians and Muslims. CSW welcomes the MPs’ call for the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Religion and Belief, Asma Jahangir, to investigate violations of religious freedom in Burma and hold Burma’s military regime accountable for their many human rights abuses.”
The church closures mark the most significant crackdown on Christian activity in Burma in recent years, affecting as many as 80 per cent of churches in Rangoon. Some local Christians believe that the immediate cause of the oppressive measures is church involvement in relief provision for victims of Cyclone Nargis.
Burma is categorised as a ‘Country of Particular Concern’ by the US State Department, for its violations of religious freedom. In 2007, CSW published a report, Carrying the Cross: The military regime’s campaign of restriction, discrimination and persecution against Christians in Burma, which revealed a 17-point document allegedly from an organisation affiliated to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, titled “Programme to Destroy the Christian religion in Burma”. The first point states: “There shall be no home where the Christian religion is practised.”
Van Biak Thang
12 February, 2009