UN Secretary-General Must Act Regarding Increasing Repression of Religious Minorities
The undersigned organisations raise serious concerns about violations of freedom of religion or belief in Burma/Myanmar, which have increased significantly since the military illegally seized power on 1 February 2021. The South Asia Forum for Freedom of Religion or Belief (SAFFoRB), one of the co-signatories of this statement, is closely associated with the Southern Asia Desk of Global Ministries in its work on promoting interfaith initiatives for peace. We call on United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to personally lead high-level efforts to address this growing crisis.
We have seen in the recent past how, left unchallenged, state-sponsored hate speech and incitement to violence has led to and enabled widespread anti-Muslim violence across Burma/Myanmar and culminated in the genocide of the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Since the military coup, we have seen hate speech and targeting of religious groups increase and the release from prison of prominent anti-Muslim activists. There is serious concern that the military will increase the use of hate speech and propaganda targeted at non-Buddhist religious groups to attempt to divide the resistance and deflect and divert attention from the coup and subsequent oppression and economic collapse.
In recent months, hate speech against Christians has increased, and Christian figures have been murdered and arbitrarily detained by the military. Religious oppression is a longstanding issue in Burma, and the coup has emboldened the military to further persecute Christians and Muslims living in the country.
Most recently, the junta murdered a Christian pastor and three other men. The incident began when several homes were set ablaze by artillery fire during fighting between the Chin Defense Force and the Burmese military on 18 September in Thantlang, Chin State. A Christian pastor named Cung Biak Hum was shot dead while he attempted to help extinguish a fire at another resident’s home.
The junta is currently holding another Pastor, Thian Lian Sang, in custody. Thian Lian Sang is a pastor of a church in Mandalay. He was arrested on 16 September by plainclothes police. His family was later reportedly robbed of Kyat 400,000 by SAC officials, which they had received to help cover the cost of burial for Sang’s father.
Previously, raids occurred at Mohnhyin mosque and Butaryone Street Mosque in Mohnhyin city, Kachin State, on 3 June 2021. During the attack, a custodian of the mosque was arbitrarily detained. Similarly, a Catholic church in Kantharyar Loikaw City, Kayeh State was shot at on 24 May as civilians sought refuge there. Three women and one man were killed in the incident. Around the same time, an ethnic Karen Church was destroyed on 23 May by the military and police in Insein Township. Three people, including a pastor and a disabled person, were beaten and detained.
The attacks on the protesters and the religious minorities have been widespread and systematically carried out by the order of the same general who also ordered for the mass killings of Rohingya people in 2017, which was described as a genocide by the UN Fact Finding Mission.
The Burmese Military must end all hostilities against religious minorities, release all religious and political prisoners, step down from power, and allow the democratically elected government to resume.
The National Unity Government (NUG) must fully commit to ensuring all rights for religious minorities and present a detailed plan for doing so when they regain power. The international community must increase pressure on the military to comply with these demands to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone in and from Burma/Myanmar.
A global arms embargo and targeted sanctions on the military’s sources of revenue are vital to support the promotion of human rights and democracy in Burma/Myanmar. Countries should impose their own unilateral arms embargo in the absence of a UN-mandated arms embargo.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres should lead high-level efforts to increase diplomatic pressure on the junta and mobilise countries in the region to deploy their influence to end the military’s violence and repression and seek the release of political prisoners and the establishment of genuine federal democracy and respect for human rights for all.
At the same time, the international community should increase humanitarian assistance, especially for ethnic and religious minorities and particularly for those internally displaced, taking care to use civil society channels that do not result in aid being blocked or misappropriated by the military.
It is time to cut the economic lifeline of the illegal military regime while providing humanitarian lifelines to the people of Burma/Myanmar.
With current UN and ASEAN efforts failing to achieve any progress, the office of the United Nations Secretary-General has the authority to mobilise the international community to support his diplomatic efforts to achieve change in Burma/Myanmar.
Repeated warnings regarding the impending genocide of the Rohingya were ignored for years, until it was too late. We sound the warning bell now that there is a real danger of the military again using nationalism and attacks on non-Buddhists for its nefarious political agenda, with devastating consequences for religious minorities in the country.
The time to act is now.
- America Rohingya Justice Network:
- American Baptist Churches, USA
- American Rohingya Advocacy
- Arakan Institute for Peace and Development:
- Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
- ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
- Association Info Birmanie
- Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
- Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
- Boat People SOS – Religious Freedom Project
- Burma Action Ireland
- Burma Campaign UK
- Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
- Burma Task Force
- Burmese American Community Institute (BACI)
- Burmese American Millennials
- Burmese Democratic Forces
- Burmese Muslim Association
- Burmese Rohingya Association In Japan (BRAJ)
- Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
- Campaign for a New Myanmar
- Cantors’ Assembly
- Centre for Human Rights Research & Advocacy (CENTHRA)
- Chin Association of Maryland, Inc (CAM)
- Chin Human Rights Organization
- Chin Leaders of Tomorrow
- Christi Australia
- Christian Freedom International
- Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
- Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)
- Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
- Crane Center for Mass Atrocity Prevention
- Decency & Clarity
- Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization
- Engage Action
- Equality Myanmar
- Fortify Rights
- Free Burma Action Bay/USA/Global
- Free Burma Campaign (South Africa) (FBC(SA)
- Free Myanmar Campaign USA
- Freedom, Justice, Equality for Myanmar
- Future Thanlwin
- Genocide Watch
- Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
- Human Rights Foundation of Monland
- Info Birmanie
- Initiative for Human Rights in Asia (IHRA)
- Institute for Asian Democracy
- International Campaign for the Rohingya
- International Christian Concern
- Islamic Renaissance Front
- Jewish World Watch
- Jubilee Campaign USA
- Justice4Rohingya UK
- Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
- Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
- Karen Organization of America
- Karenni Human Rights Group
- Keng Tung Youth
- L’chaim! Jews Against the Death Penalty
- Los Angeles Rohingya Association
- Metta Campaign Mandalay
- Myanmar Advocacy Coalition
- Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
- Myanmar Peace Bikers
- Nationalities Alliance of Burma USA
- NeT Organization
- Nguyen Van Ly Foundation
- No Business With Genocide
- Palms Australia
- Pax Christi Victoria
- Prayer Pioneers
- Progressive Voice
- Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
- Revealing Light Ministries
- Rumi Forum
- Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
- Shan MATA
- Society for Humanistic Judaism
- South Asia Forum for Freedom of Religion or Belief (SAFFoRB)
- Southern Youth Development Organization
- Spring Revolution Interfaith Network
- Spring Revolution Interfaith Network
- Stefanus Alliance International
- Swedish Burma Committee
- Synergy-Social Harmony Organization
- Synergy-Social Harmony Organization
- Ta’ang Women’s Organization
- Tanintharyi MATA
- The Common Good Foundation
- U.S. Advocacy Coalition for Myanmar (USACM)
- U.S. Campaign for Burma
- Vietnam Coalition Against Torture (VN-CAT)
- Vietnamese Women for Human Rights
- Denise Nichols OAM, Practitioner Affiliate
- Dr Lionel Fernandes, Retired Reader In Politics & Former Head, Department of Civics & Politics, University of Mumbai, India.
- Hon. Rollin A. Van Broekhoven
- John Ball
- Michael Mullerworth
- Nguyen Dinh Thang, PhD, Laureate of 2011 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award
- Rabbi David Wirtschafter –Temple Adath Israel of Lexington
- Revd. Harry Kerr
- Scott Morgan, President, Red Eagle Enterprises
- Scott Stearman, -U.N. Representative Baptist World Alliance (ECOSOC) / Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (DGC)
- Sr. Catriona Devlin csb