The government of Myanmar (Burma) is one step closer to approving a set of four Race and Religion Protection bills as law, after its Lower House approved two bills on 19th March. These bills limit conversions to other religions, marriages between Buddhist women and men of other religions, and childbirth rates by region.
Human rights activists are concerned that these bills are primarily targeted at Muslim communities where there have been clashes with Buddhist communities. However, some of them will also seriously restrict the country’s Christians and Christian-majority ethnicities, such as the Kachin and Chin peoples.
The Religious Conversion Bill stipulates that anyone who wishes to convert to another religion must obtain permission from local authorities.
The Population Control Healthcare Bill enables authorities to limit women to giving birth to one child every three years. The bill will only be imposed upon geographical areas where authorities deem it necessary, based on the healthcare resources available in the region. It does, however, makes it easy for authorities to discriminate against particular religious and ethnic minorities.
The Buddhist Women’s Special Marriage Bill decrees that Buddhist women who marry men of other religions must apply to local authorities for permission. According to the bill, they must be permitted to retain and practise their Buddhist religion. Any husband caught forcing his Buddhist wife to convert to another religion could be fined or even imprisoned.
The last of the four Bills, namely the Monogamy Bill, which seeks to ban polygamy throughout Burma, has yet to be discussed in both Houses.
Phyo Min Thein, a member of the Lower House, said that “approximately 200 votes supported the bills, about 40 votes opposed the bill and 3 abstained”. If the bills are approved in both houses and pass a joint vote in the bicameral parliament, they will be made law by presidential decree.
- Pray for Myanmar (Burma). Pray for peace and reconciliation between the Buddhist majority and minority groups, such as the Christian Kachin and Chin People.
- Pray for the government, to see the potential for using the new laws as discrimination against religious and ethnic minority groups, and to put in safe-guards against this.
- Pray for Burmese Christians, often victims of abuse and discrimination. Pray for them for hope, comfort and a strong faith in their loving God.
2 Corinthians 3 vs 17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”