Burmese archbishop warns against new religion laws

Archbishop Maung Bo

Myanmar Archbishop Charles Maung Bo of Yangon said proposed laws on 'the protection of race and religion' are unnecessary, and warned against the state interfering in an individual's right to choose their religion, reports Ucanews.

Archbishop Bo told ucanews.com that such rules risked dialing back religious freedom in Myanmar at a time when citizens are gaining freedoms in most other areas.

A nationalist movement led by Buddhist monks last year had lawyers draft a package of legislation to regulate interfaith marriage, religious conversion and population growth, backed by a petition with more than 1.3 million signatures. The government of the country's reformist president, Thein Sein, is now drafting laws based on the proposal, which is targeting the Buddhist-majority country’s Muslim minority.

At the heart of the movement, dubbed 969, is an apparent fear that Buddhist women are being forcibly converted to Islam, and that Muslims are growing in number and influence. Inter-communal violence has displaced tens of thousands of people in Rakhine State, where the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority lives, and elsewhere since mid-2012. The vast majority of those displaced are Muslims.

The most controversial law being proposed would require a Buddhist woman to have her marriage sanctioned by local authorities, her parents and in-laws before marrying a non-Buddhist. Her husband also would be required to convert to Buddhism.

Speaking at his Yangon residence, adjacent to the city's St Mary's Cathedral, Archbishop Bo said such matters should not be legally restricted.

FULL STORY Myanmar archbishop speaks out against new religion laws (Ucanews)

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