flagsWritten by Don Byrd

Proposed legislation in Myanmar would make illegal marriages between citizens of different faiths, among other efforts to “protect and preserve race and religion.” The U.S. State Department announced its concern about the proposal.

Associated Press has more:

The State Department has voiced serious concerns about proposals to criminalize interfaith marriage in Myanmar, while rights groups warned Thursday that passage of such discriminatory legislation could spark more violence against Muslims.

“The United States opposes any measure that would criminalize interfaith marriages. Such a step would be inconsistent with the government’s efforts to promote tolerance and respect for human rights,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in written response to a question posed at a press briefing Wednesday.

Myanmar (also known as Burma) has made political strides toward more democratic forms of government during the last two years, but those advances have not translated into significant improvements in religious freedom. Criminalizing interfaith marriages would be a step backwards.

Update since the original posting: The American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) sees potential for great harm to Baptist Christians and others in Burma, and they are calling for action. The ABCUSA Board of General Ministries recently voted to approve two critical actions regarding Burma. One action is with regard to U.S. financial support for the Burmese military, and the other concerns a proposed law on religious conversion.  

From their news release:

The second action regards a religious conversion law that is being introduced into the legislative process in Burma. It would severely restrict the rights of Christians and other minority religions to share their faith with Buddhists. The bill carries jail terms and other punitive measures for those who do so and clearly contravenes the guarantee of religious liberty in their own constitution. ABCUSA will be voicing its concern to both our government and the government of Myanmar as stated below.
“While we rejoice in the progress that has occurred in Burma, these are matters that harm Baptist brothers and sisters in Burma. We ask for your prayers and your action,” said ABCUSA General Secretary A. Roy Medley.

The American Baptist Churches USA is one of the 15 supporting bodies of the Baptist Joint Committee. Read their entire release. Also, read a special column from Curtis Ramsey-Lucas that appeared in the July/August 2014 Report from the Capital.