Myanmar Parliament Asked to Review Religious Freedom Law

Prelate Warns State Not to Interfere With Right to Choose Ones Religion

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The president of Myanmar (also known as Burma), Thein Sein, has asked Parliament to review the draft of a new law on religious freedom. The measure limits interfaith marriages and conversions from one faith to another, prohibits polygamy and promotes birth control.

In a note sent to Fides, Archbishop of Yangon Charles Maung Bo disagreed with the proposal, asking the state «not to interfere with the individual right to choose one’s own religion.»

The law, he said, «limits religious freedom in Myanmar at a time when citizens are gaining freedom in other areas. Conversion is a matter of conscience, that no one can coerce.»

The law, providing for restrictions on interfaith marriages, «would undermine the free decision of a woman to start a family,» he continued. Recalling the prejudices and the hate campaign waged against Muslims Burmese, the archbishop called for religious harmony.

According to Fides, Thein Sein’s proposal arises from a petition filed by the Buddhist monks movement and signed by more than 1.3 million people with the aim of «protecting the race and religion of the majority Buddhist nation.»

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the «National League for Democracy», criticized the proposal, saying it discriminates against women and violates human rights and personal freedoms.

The constitution of Myanmar assigns a «special position» to Buddhism as the faith professed by the majority of the population, but also recognizes other religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and animism.

Parliament and the various ministers will assess the draft and will discuss it in May.

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