CHRO testified at UN forum on Minority Issues
29 November 2013: Ms. Rosalinn Zahau, of the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), told the sixth session of the UN Forum on Minority Issues that discrimination against religious minorities still continues in Burma.
She said that the Chin still face intersecting forms of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, religion, and language, adding: “One impact of such discrimination is extreme poverty and another is on the right to effective participation in public and economic life. Chin Christian women are effectively excluded from all decision-making levels of government in Chin State.”
Burma’s 2008 Constitution notes the ‘special position’ of Buddhism as the faith practiced by the majoriy, while Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Animism merely ‘exist’. According to CHRO, Buddhism is treated as the de facto State religion, with the Ministry of Religious Affairs allowed to use State resources to promote and propagate Buddhism.
“Over the past two decades, the State’s policies and practices have given rise to a wide range of violations of freedom of religion or belief for the Chin, such as the destruction of large-scale Christian crosses by State actors, using the forced labor of Chin Christians to build Buddhist infrastructure, and forced relocation to give way for Buddhist infrastructure,” Ms. Zahau told the Forum.
CHRO urged the Forum to call on the Burmese government to take concrete measures to fully comply with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the right to freedom of religion or belief, and to adopt legislation that prohibits direct or indirect discrimination against persons from religious minority backgrounds.
CHRO also called for Burma’s Ministry of Religious Affairs to be replaced with an independent and impartial commission on religious freedom, with a mandate to address deep-rooted discrimination on the basis of religious identity.
The sixth session of the Forum on Minority Issues on “Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities” was held in Geneva, Switzerland on 26 and 27 November 2013.#