ICC NOTE: In what can be seen as little surprise, the military in Burma will likely create problems for the National League of Democracy (NLD) and their efforts to pass a religious harmony bill. The bill has been in the works since the military were in power but typical of bills advocating for democratic principles, the military blocked its move towards a vote. Now that the NLD has majority leadership in Burma there is hope for the bill to pass if the military and partnering party (USDP) agree to see the bigger picture. Christian’s are skeptical of their support on the matter as they continue to attack religious minorities in the border states while allowing Buddhist pagodas (shrines) to be built upon Christian church property.
6/7/2016 Myanmar (Asia News) – The Government of Myanmar under the National League for Democracy (NLD) is working on a legislative package in favour of religious harmony.
For Mgr Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, the new government “will give priority to fostering harmony in the country. It needs to buy time and room to settle tensions. However, I am sceptical about the contribution of the military and the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).”
The new measures have two main purposes, “one is to promote living harmoniously among religions, and the second is to take effective action against those who try to disturb harmony”.
Relations between the Buddhist majority and minorities (primarily Muslim and Christian) have often been tense. The proposed law had been in the works under the military junta but never made it to Parliament.
The 2008 military-backed constitution recognises the “right to freely profess and practise religion subject to public order, morality or health and to the other provisions of this Constitution”.
However, the previous military-backed government enacted four laws “to protect race and religion” under pressure from the Committee for the Protection of nationality and religion (Ma Ba Tha) to regulate polygamy and conversions, targeting the Muslim minority.
Religious Affairs and Culture Minister Thura U Aung Ko met members of an interfaith group some weeks ago to discuss the legislation before it reached parliament.
“At least one Catholic priest was present,” Card Bo told AsiaNews, but “There was no serious discussion. The minister said he was open to all faiths, but I felt it was very superficial.”