Human Rights Watch is calling on President Thein Sein of Burma to reject a law approved by Parliament last week that would greatly restrict religious freedom in the country. The Religious Conversion Bill requires a lengthy, intrusive application process of anyone seeking to change their religion. Local board members would review the application and determine the approval of the conversion.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch warns of the impact of the law on religious minorities and notes that it is “directly incompatible with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”
“Allowing local officials to regulate private faith so closely is a pathway to repression of religious freedom,” Robertson said. “In their zeal to protect Buddhism, the authors of these laws are imperiling other religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, and especially Burma’s persecuted Muslim minority.”
Last year, American Baptist Churches USA, a supporting body of the Baptist Joint Committee, voiced its concern about the conversion measure.
In July of this year, Burma’s Parliament also passed a measure outlawing interfaith marriages, which like the conversion bill has apparently not yet been signed into law.