Christian Chin ‘Coerced to Buddhism by State’

An ethnic Chin woman stands outside a church in Chin State. (Photo: CHRO)

Christian Chin from western Burma are denied religious freedom and face coercion to convert to Buddhism as a result of state policy, according to a new report

The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) released Threats to Our Existence: Persecution of Ethnic Chin Christians in Burma on Wednesday which exposes a decades-long pattern of religious freedom violations and human rights abuses including forced labor and torture which has led thousands of Chin to flee their homeland.

“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.”

Drawn from more than 100 interviews conducted over the past two years, the report reveals violations of the right to freedom of religious assembly, coercion to convert to Buddhism and the destruction of Christian crosses in Chin State.

According to CHRO research, there are 29 Na Ta La (Border Areas National Races Youth Development Training) schools across Burma, primarily targeting ethnic and religious minorities. The schools function outside the mainstream chronically underfunded education system and practice targeted recruitment of impoverished Chin who lack the means to pay for alternative schooling.

Ethnic Chin make up one-third of students at Na Ta La schools where they are prevented from practicing Christianity and instead coerced to convert to Buddhism, primarily via the threat of military conscription. Students are often forced to shave their heads and wear robes of monks or nuns, the CHRO said.

“We were often threatened. The headmaster Aung Myint Tun and the others used to say, ‘If you don’t want to be Buddhist, we can arrest you, we can put you in prison, we can do anything we want to you. You are just like a toy in our hands.’” a 17-year-old who fled a Na Ta La school in Matupi Township told the CHRO. “We were all really insulted by that, and I was scared I would be put in prison. So in fear of that, I ran away from Na Ta La.”

Union Border Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Thein Htay has said, “Subjects on Union spirit is mainly lectured at the training schools … By inculcating Union spirit into them, youth forces equipped with strong Union spirit that could safeguard Our Three Main National Causes at the risk of their lives…”

Burma’s three national causes are “non-disintegration of the Union, non-disintegration of national solidarity and perpetuation of sovereignty.”

The 2012 US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report includes Burma on its list of “countries of particular concern” (CPCs).

“It’s no coincidence that many of the nations we recommend to be designated as CPCs are among the most dangerous and destabilizing places on earth,” said USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo. “Nations that trample upon basic rights, including freedom of religion, provide fertile ground for poverty and insecurity, war and terror, and violent, radical movements and activities.”

The other nations included on USCIRF list of CPCs were China, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

“The government must end the policies and practices which amount to persecution of Chin Christians,” added Salai Ling. “Thein Sein’s government must then radically overhaul state institutions to protect ethnic and religious minority rights.”

23 Responses to Christian Chin ‘Coerced to Buddhism by State’

  1. President Than Sein and Minister of Foreign Affairs boosted with Foreign press that “Burmese Goverment has no policy of religious discrimination”. But in practical, you will find different. You can not repair Churches and Mosques in Burma. You do not have to go detail, just to see Churches and Mosques in Burma, then Monasteries. You will realize the reality.

  2. The States and Regions’ Chief Ministers are appointed by NayPyiTaw and they are all Buddhists even in Christian mojority states like Kachin and Chin. We can transform our grievances only if there is trust and coperation between central and states.

  3. This is racism, not buddhism. First throw out the Rohingyas, second the Kachin and then Chin? To be burmese, means you must be Buddhist.

    • I think you are wrong,Mr.Lintao.Every country in the world are inhabited by different races.Who teach you that to be Burmese,a citizen should be Buddhist.Please don’t be narrow-minded.

  4. Religious freedom is on paper and at the mouth of the all government officials, practically no freedom of religion. Religion freedom means there must be freedom of warship, and freedom of building of religious buildings and freedom of religious practice which are not practically can do in their peoples life in Burma ( Myanmar ). Buddhist can practice their religious rights, but not other religion such as Christian and Islam. Some areas of Burma especially ethnic areas many Christain and Mosques are demolished by local authority or military. That is why Burma is a country stop by himself development of the country and no peace. Soon after the Burmese independent BUma Communist Party went under ground and ethnic fighting started and become sate of civil war. So now President Thein Sein should consider deeply to to make any sort of persecution to other religion, and ethnic violence. Why forcing the peoples to become Buddhist, since Buddhism is not a religion, it is just Philosophy let it stay in its boundary not encroach to others boundary so that there can be prevailed PEACE.

  5. A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    Buddhism, the religion of peace, strikes again. If Myanmar wants 100% Buddhism, they should establish their own Buddhist world by taking all the Buddhists from the whole world. First, they should begin swapping Buddhists with non-Buddhists from neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei,etc. Send all the non-Buddists from Myanmar to neighboring countries and accept all the Buddists from neighboring countries as Burmese citizens. What a backward stone-age mentality! Go and live on another planet in a different galaxy and establish a Buddhist community there and worship those ridiculous-looking Indian statues and idols while the rest of the world lives in peace on this earth!

    A Burmese Freedom Fighter

    • The Burmese Freedom Fighter

      Get lost, you stole my pen name with the non-sense comments to provoke and tarnish the Buddishs. You can be another Burmese Freedom Fighter but can’t be me because I am The Burmese Freedom Fighter ( The Best Friend Forever )

      The Burmese Freedom Fighter

  6. Freedom of worship(Religious Freedom) is one of the very basic cornerstones in democratic societies. Separation of Religion and State must be included in our constitution. Other than that the majority group will always exploit their numbers to oppress the minority groups. It happened in the past, it is happening today, if the law isn’t clearly there, it will happen in the future too. The government must not side with any particular religion. Promoting Buddhism above other religions by any mean is undemocratic. Government must not use the State Fund to promote Buddhism. Personally, everybody can donate or contribute for charity but in the past, Myanmar government used State Fund to promote Buddhism. This is totally wrong and the government must stop this kind of undemocratic behavior and action. At the same time, leave the religious section to religious leaders. The religious leaders also need to refrain from party politics. Do not cross the line.

  7. More than half of Hlutdaw members are from USDP and military, and all the Union level ministers are from USDP, and also almost employee from government office is from USDP. That’s why the color of dictatorship is still there. The new chapter will start only after 2015 when we become majority in both Hlutdaws.

  8. Well, the Christians have been doing this for centuries and are still bribing poor people into Christianity. Here in Europe Buddhists are jumped upon by Christians in an effort to give them a sense of ‘home’ and convert them. They are experiencing their kamma results.
    That said, the Burmese government should refrain from this horrible practice that has stained and is still staining our religious history.
    By the way, many Buddhist monasteries in Burma are also in a deplorable state!

    • Monasteries are not equal to churches and mosques, which are analogous to pagodas and temples. Monasteries are living quarters for the monks. Churches, mosques, pagodas and temples are places of worship. Don’t compare monasteries and churches and mosques.

    • If you are in Europe, you are in a strange land. Here, nobody is a stranger. Everyone is native. Imposing Buddhism to christian Kachins, christian Chins and christian Karens is different from you immigrate to Europe and you are not treated like a European by the Europeans is different. Kachinland is of the Kachins. Chinland is of the Chins. You understand, idiot? The ethnic groups deserve to enjoy full freedom on their own respective lands. Government sanctioned Buddhist mission and personal mission are not the same. You have the right to reach everyone with your faith. But if you are sponsored by the Government using the State Fund, that’s undemocratic and unacceptable.

  9. Myanmar is majority religion Buddhism , so that you can hear Buddhism praying and meditation and donation , this is not try to coerce you . If you want to full Christian religion everywhere , you should go and stay at Christian Majority Country , like US or Europe or UK. Please understand each other and yourself . We Buddhism , never persuade another religion , we try to do our religion work .
    What are you expecting in Buddhism Majority Country ?

    • We want just humanity from you, Bhuddhism.

    • They are not asking for full Christian religion everywhere. They only ask to be allowed to believe in Christianity. Your attitude is very offensive to people who simply want to follow their religion.

      The law allowing free religion to everyone living in Myanmar should be followed.

    • The most stupid comment I have ever read so far.

      • The most stupid reply that I have ever read too. Mr. Ne Win you must understand that being religious minorities plus Christianity doesn’t mean that they can be toyed by Buddhist majority. Unless we accept that everyone, big and small, has equal rights under the law, peace and nation building will never be successful in the country.

  10. The discriminations were done by the ignorant previous military government. There were no Christians in Burma initially and since Christianity is brought by the western people who are against their government they assume ignorantly that all Christians are pro West. Ordinary Burmese Buddhist people have no problems with our Chin brothers Christians or not.

    • Absolutely, yes. The article does not refer to the ordinary Myanmar people but the ones who misused power to divide and rule(Dictators who are not real Buddhists).

  11. Peace, Love– The Bible says it so. So does the Koran and The Torah. Please understand that as Buddhists , the Buddhists in Myanmar and the World dominated by the major religions of God The Absolute One, just profess The Buddha and try to practice, to their individual best the Teachings of The Buddha, The Buddha Dhamma . Unfortunately’ it happens to be the major way of life for most Burmese– Myanmar people. I have been to both Katha, Monhyin, and Myitkyina and then in the 60s found the common people mingling and sharing their lives. When in the 50s and as a teen, and though I am a Buddhist I attended Church both Baptist , Anglican and Catholic’ and even now continue to do so in my old age. Whats bothering some of us, our country men and women, I do try to understand. I think its fear and insecurity, that attend to any individual . My request, please do not humiliate us further for being a Buddhist and a Burmese- myanmar. With Hatred towards none . Married to a Myanmar Baptist, two sisters are Christians, one a Catholic and another a Methodist. My father was always a Zororaistran -Parsi and died as one. With Metta to all. Thandaya pyauk ywei’, a hmann bawa yauk kyar’ bar zaye.

  12. Rubbish and Absurd. I think the world knows who convert to who and what tactics and strategies were behind. Don’t shout too much.


  13. It is understood that many Buddhists especially Burmans can get offended by the CHRO reports in this news. But for sure it is also understandable that their frustrations do not reflect the reality of religious persecutions in Chin state. CHRO report is based on facts and witnesses. If anyone has a reason to be outrageous, then he should read the report and perhaps reflect on the true identity of their ultranationalism rooted in their government. It’s just a shame.

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