Myanmar Christians forced to convert to Buddhism: Rights group

By AFP
Published: September 5, 2012

Christian students from Myanmar's Chin ethnic minority have been forced to convert to Buddhism. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

BANGKOK: Christian students from Myanmar’s Chin ethnic minority have been forced to convert to Buddhism, shave their heads and wear monastic robes, a rights group said Wednesday.

The Chin, a mainly Christian group in the poor and remote west of the predominantly Buddhist country, face harassment for the link between their faith and British colonial rule, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

“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 Salai Ling, Program Director of the CHRO.

Rachel Fleming, another member of the group, said Christianity does not fit with the national view that “to be Burmese, you should be Buddhist”.

Chin students are also frequently targeted for enrollment in schools run by Myanmar’s military which convert them to Buddhism, she said, adding that Christian students are beaten for failing to recite Buddhist scriptures.

Poverty among the Chin, whose main source of income is farming, leaves the group vulnerable to recruitment to these schools as the military offers free food, education and government jobs once they graduate.

Chin state, which borders India, is home to around 500,000 people. Tens of thousands have fled to neighbouring India to escape army abuses under the former junta, according to rights groups.

In its annual report this year Amnesty International said Chin Christians still face persecution, citing the case of a preacher barred from speaking at a church and ordered to leave the area.

Myanmar is home to a patchwork of ethnic groups and civil war has gripped parts of the country since its independence in 1948.

But Myanmar’s reformist government has agreed ceasefires with several ethnic rebel groups as part of reforms since coming to power last year.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • amalgam
    Sep 5, 2012 - 4:39PM

    and when missionaries do the same by hook or crook ??

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  • Ally
    Sep 5, 2012 - 4:46PM

    almost as bad as us!

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  • What D Fiqh
    Sep 5, 2012 - 4:51PM

    I’d say this is a good step. THe Burmese have learnt from experience in India’s North East. Christian Missionaries have converted many tribals into Christianity and most of the insurgency ( excepting Assam ) can be traced to missionary activity.

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  • amjad khattak
    Sep 5, 2012 - 4:56PM

    i think islam is also responsible for this!!!!!!!

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  • wolfie loves kulfie
    Sep 5, 2012 - 4:57PM

    why do we Indians keep on taking refuges from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, China, Nepal Afghanistan, Sri Lanka etc? are we the only nation with humanity left for people ?

    that we throw open our doors roll out the Red carpet to refuges as if India is a promised land to these people India should seal the borders and send these people back to their countries even the west and US are NOT so charitable with asylum as India is if these people have a problem they should go to UN or UNHCR.

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  • antanu g
    Sep 5, 2012 - 5:37PM

    Now…..where are those who blame only Pakistanis for forced conversion?

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  • Obedullah
    Sep 5, 2012 - 5:51PM

    When entire pakistan is divided on the issue of blashphemy… when a 11 year old christian girl is put to jail without any proof of her act of blashphemy… When hundreds of christians have fled the area where this incident took place… A place where salmaan taseer, paul bhatti are brutally murdered just for supporting asia bibi….A place several copies of bible were burnt in response to the blashphemy case of the 11 year old girl …..Tell me does Islam teach us to desecrate the bible????? If you have some sense left in your brain please tell me does Islam allow us to burn bible????????? Hindus are forced leave the country.. hindus are forced to leave the land where Hinduism was born??? With these serious minority issues occuring in Pakistan today…ET has the audacity to talk about the plight of the minority of some other country…!!!!!!!! Shame on you!

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 5, 2012 - 6:08PM

    @wolfie loves kulfie

    I agree with you.

    Except for the original inhabitants of the subcontinent, like Hindus/Jains/Sikhs and Buddhists, our borders must be shut for others.

    Others have other countries to approach these 4 groups can can call only India as their protector.

    Even if Parsis want to migrate from Pakistan to escape persecution, we can make an exception. After all their original home is now occupied by muslims.

    But definitely not muslims, christians and jews. enough is enough.

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  • RH
    Sep 5, 2012 - 6:26PM

    @mr. righty rightist: Islam came to the subcontinent before Sikhism was even founded…oh snap.

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  • BlackJack
    Sep 5, 2012 - 6:38PM

    If this is happening, it is shameful, seems to be the very anti-thesis of what Buddhism is meant to stand for. The fact that these people were all converted once by questionable methods is no excuse to adopt the same methods. On the other front, I am not suprised to see the glee with which Pakistanis have greeted this news, apparently there are others like them in this world.

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  • wolfie loves kulfie
    Sep 5, 2012 - 6:44PM

    @mr. righty rightist: Except for the original inhabitants of the subcontinent, like Hindus/Jains/Sikhs and Buddhists, our borders must be shut for others.

    no I disagree.

    I am atheist im not talking about religion or caste or ethnicity..im saying that India is for Indians.. and not an ashram or paradise for refugees paradise what ever be their background they are not Indian and should be sent back such large scale migration affects demography and puts stress on land and resources of domestic people staying here.and these are nationals of other countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, China, Nepal Afghanistan, Sri Lanka etc it is the responsibility of their government to help them instead of us taking care of their mess.

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  • Butt
    Sep 5, 2012 - 6:46PM

    @antanu g: Pakistan is being blamed because they are the masters of it. Now the students are learning to do the same. As they say, the Empire strickes back.

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  • A.
    Sep 5, 2012 - 7:20PM

    Majority in any country never likes the minority.

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Sep 5, 2012 - 7:30PM

    @RH who writes “@mr. righty rightist: Islam came to the subcontinent before Sikhism was even founded…oh snap.”

    Who disputed that?!!! Read what I have written ten times and understand.

    @wolfie loves kulfie

    Agree to disagree.

    I reiterate that, only people belonging to the Dharmic religions (which were born in India) should be allowed as refugees in India. Zorostrianism is an exception, because their original home, Iran, is already occupied and ruined by Muslims.

    Actually I don’t have to say this. This is exactly the policy of the government has been. Tibetan Buddhists got refuge only due to this reason.

    However, the government should grow spine and stop laxity with regards to the illegal muslim immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.

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  • amalgam
    Sep 5, 2012 - 7:35PM

    I am atheist im not talking about religion or caste or ethnicity..im saying that India is for Indians.. and not an ashram or paradise for refugees paradise what ever be their background they are not Indian and should be sent back such large scale migration affects demography and puts stress on land and resources of domestic people staying here.

    Ok I’m a semi – atheist cum Samaji cum cultural nationalist .India was divided on the lines of religion and the inhabitants who donot love india are enjoying life in three of these countries and will come back to their original demand if they reach there desired population .what will you say then “india for those indians” ?

    Add Christians(who are not converted recently) to the list and i agree with mr. righty

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  • casim
    Sep 5, 2012 - 7:37PM

    Indians spewing hatred again, not surprised to see this :) don’t you guys have your own news website lol pity you, anyhow, you are welcome to let us know how full of hate you Indians are against your neighbours & other religion :) BRING ON MORE :)

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  • BlackJack
    Sep 5, 2012 - 8:43PM

    @mr. righty rightist:
    We are sometimes at odds, but here I agree with you (and @amalgam) completely. For people of Dharmic religions (and Parsis) we are both a homeland of sorts as well as a refuge of the last resort – they have nowhere else to go; for illegal migrants and refugees of other faiths, we are just the country that is easiest to enter and disappear into if they don’t get along with their current hosts; their allegiance lies with their community and not with India. Big difference.

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  • Obedullah
    Sep 5, 2012 - 8:57PM

    @casim: One in seven people on this planet earth is an Indian.!! We are everywhere.. The only reason why we comment on Pakistani websites is to defend our motherland India.. On our watch no Pakistani media can spread false propaganda against India. We are here to protect the unity of our country. The biggest threat to our unity is Pakistan… You broke our mother India into two pieces.. We won’t allow you to break our Country anymore. Your every existence is because of anti India sentiment… Recommend

  • Obedullah
    Sep 5, 2012 - 9:01PM

    @A.: only the small minority of that majority doesn’t like the minority. I hope you understand what I meant.

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  • Sep 5, 2012 - 9:11PM

    @casim:
    Your comment is sign of intolerance
    . Unable to digest logical reply of the comments.
    Do not want any criticism for the article published in Pakistani news paper by non Muslms particularly.Materials available on net is for every one& not reserved for Pakistani readers only which please confirm if any doubt. . Recommend

  • Naeem Siddiqui
    Sep 6, 2012 - 6:45AM

    @mr. righty rightist

    Will India ask the religion of a person before granting asylum or citizenship :)

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  • GhostRider
    Sep 6, 2012 - 10:05AM

    Who in Pakistan wants to migrate to India??? who would want to go to a bigger mess

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Sep 6, 2012 - 10:48AM

    Always hard to swallow one’s own pill

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  • gp65
    Sep 6, 2012 - 10:59AM

    @antanu g: “Now…..where are those who blame only Pakistanis for forced conversion?”

    So Burma is your role model now in terms of Religious tolerance? Are you suggesting that emulating Burma’s actions makes them acceptable? Is that how you also feel about Rohingyas?

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  • vasan
    Sep 6, 2012 - 5:20PM

    GhostRiders : Ask ur hindu brothers as to why they are migrating out of pakistan ? India may be a bigger or smaller mess. Atleast your daughters are not forced to convert and marry. you dont live under the sword of blasphemy etc etc

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  • christian paki
    Sep 6, 2012 - 5:38PM

    though the situation in very bad, but i think india offer no more comfort. we remember the time when christian state goa was forcibly taken by indian hindus. i think its time for christians of all states in saarc to wake up and demand for a separate state. we are majority in north east india. and the rate at which dalits are converting to the christ , i will not astonished if we become the majority soon. buddhism has no organization.only way for the dalits empowerment is christianity. Recommend

  • Raj - USA
    Sep 6, 2012 - 6:20PM

    @vasan:
    There is much more to the issue of conversion of Hindu girls in Pakistan. It is by rape. No one hears of these girls after they are converted. Their Hindu families are not allowed to meet her and even her new neighbors do not hear of her later. Hindu leaders have claimed live on Pakistan TV that these girls have been pushed to prostitution, or sold off to others, or held in confinement as slaves. These claims have not been refuted by anyone or have been answered so far.

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  • Oct 11, 2012 - 1:08PM

    burma people and gerverment rude and fight muslims and cristians people also hindus always .other countries yshould fight to rude burma and rakings .

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