|Washington, D.C. (September 7, 2012) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that over one million Christians belonging to the Chin tribal group in Burma continue to face regular persecution on the basis of their faith and ethnicity. The information comes after the release of an in-depth report on Wednesday by the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) documenting dozens of incidents of government-directed persecution against Chin Christians, including forced labor, rape, and extra-judicial killings.
The report, entitled ” ‘Threats to Our Existence:’ Persecution of Ethnic Chin Christians in Burma,” reveals that an unwritten policy of “Burmanization” whereby ethnic groups are assimilated into the “Union of Burma” is still being carried out despite democratic reforms by the current government. Central to this policy are severe restrictions on minority religions and the promotion of a nationalistic form of Buddhism. According to the report, this policy has led to “endemic discrimination” against Chin Christians and even attempts to coerce their conversion to Buddhism.
The report, which documented incidents between March of 2004 and June of 2012 and is based on over 100 interviews with Chin Christians, records 40 separate incidents of “torture or ill-treatment” targeting Chins on the basis of their faith and ethnicity. It also states that at least 26 official complaints made by Chin Christians to various levels of government, including complaints of rape and extra-judicial killings, were followed up with “no action taken against the perpetrators.”
Furthermore, thirteen Christian crosses in Chin State, some of them structures over 20 feet tall, were destroyed during the reporting period. Chin Christians were also forced to construct over a dozen Buddhist monasteries and pagodas. One unidentified representative of the Burmese government was recorded as saying “Christianity is not the state religion, therefore one day your Christianity may be persecuted to the point of it being wiped out by the government. We are authorized to persecute you and all the Christian missionaries.”
“President Thein Sein’s government claims that religious freedom is protected by law but in reality Buddhism is treated as the de-facto state religion,” said CHRO Program Director Salai Ling. “The discriminatory state institutions and ministries of previous military regimes continue to operate in the same way today. Few reforms have reached Chin State.”
The Chin people are located in the mountainous western region of Burma bordering India and Bangladesh. It is estimated that 90% of the approximately 1.5 million Chin are Christian.
Ryan Morgan, ICC’s Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, said “The persecution of Burma’s Christian population, which includes most of the Chin people, has been institutionalized for decades. Sadly, the international community has somehow managed to overlook this and is lifting sanctions on Burma as if all is well. In the light of this new report we call on the international community to carefully reconsider the progress that Burma has made, especially in the area of religious freedom. We also call on the Burmese government to immediately lift restrictions placed on Christian citizens and to reverse its policies of ‘Burmanization’ all the way down to the local level.”