Scrap the Religious Conversion Bill, Group Tells Thein Sein

religious conversion

Buddhist novice monks line up before lunch in a monastery in Lashio Township, Shan State, on May 30, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON — An ethnic Chin group is urging President Thein Sein to ensure the religious conversion bill does not get passed into law.

In a letter to the Burmese president on Saturday, the Institute of Chin Affairs (ICA), a nonprofit public policy forum for ethnic Chin people, said the bill violated international human rights standards and the country’s own Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion.

The bill, drafted by the Ministry of Religious Affairs, prevents people from converting to another faith without approval from government authorities. It also requires religious converts to be over the age of 18.

“The Constitution of Myanmar [Burma], though being cautious about possible abuses in religious freedom, puts no age limit on any citizen who wants to practice any religion of his or her choice. Imposing [an] age limit on a person wanting to change his or her religion also goes against international conventions and international human rights,” the ICA wrote in the letter.

If enacted, the bill would require would-be religious converts to undergo interviews with government officials, who would seek to determine whether he or she wanted to convert for appropriate reasons. Anyone deemed to be converting “with the intent of insulting or destroying religion” could face up to two years in prison. Those found to have pressured others to convert could be imprisoned for one year.

“Converting to a particular religion is absolutely at the sole discretion of the potential convert himself or herself. None but the convert himself or herself can make the ultimate decision on whether to believe in a particular faith because professing a religion is solely a spiritual and individual matter. No government authorities have the right to impose restrictions on anyone over their personal faith or belief,” the ICA wrote.

The group urged Thein Sein to “immediately and effectively take measures to prevent the bill from being passed into law,” and to ensure that discriminative bills are not proposed in Parliament in the future.

The majority of ethnic Chin people are Christian in Buddhist-majority Burma.

The government, which published a draft of the religious conversion bill in state media last month, is accepting public feedback about the bill until June 20.

5 Responses to Scrap the Religious Conversion Bill, Group Tells Thein Sein

  1. An unjust law is no law at all. Scrap RCB right now!

  2. Scrap the Religious Conversion Bill immediately and unconditionally. The President and members of Parliament should listen to the voice of their own conscience.

  3. Religiom and faith is individual concern, can not control by some one. Who all are government servent has to following according to constitution of the counmtry. At present Nargis constitution itself gives freedom of religion, why those peoples want to introduce this mind set controlling law and they want to become idiots for their doings.

    Religion is spritual and well being of the peoples living in this world, nothing concern with conversion. No religion of the world can convert any body, except the concern person accept the conversion with his moral willingness. So why these idiots group want to convert other faith. You know that FAITH IS ETERNAL not material, please understand.

  4. There shall seprate State & Religionm. If you follow monks wishes, you have to become monk otherwise your country will goes into dark age. Do you think that any one of the great four religion is greater than each others? Religion is enternal, not for particular group of peoples to make benefit out of it.

    • Please teach this to the Saudis and other Islamic countries that religion is different from statecraft or politics. This is Burma, and we want peaceful Buddhism to be the model of running this democratic country. RCB is not meant to hurt anyone like the Shahria law, it is meant for bringing peaceful coexistence and brotherhood among all the people of Burma.

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