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ICC and 98 Other Organizations Pen Letter to UN on Religious Liberty in Myanmar

10/21/2021 Washington, D. C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has joined a coalition of almost 100 human rights and religious freedom organizations in calling UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to “lead high-level efforts to increase diplomatic pressure on the junta” in Myanmar. The military regime took control of the country in February, deposing the democratically elected National League for Democracy government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The letter was organized by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and the Burma Human Rights Network and gathered signatures from organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

“In recent months, hate speech against Christians has increased, and Christian figures have been murdered and arbitrarily detained by the military,” the letter reads. “Religious oppression is a longstanding issue in Burma, and the coup has emboldened the military to further persecute Christians and Muslims living in the country.”

The Burmese military—known as the Tatmadaw—has violently oppressed the country’s ethnic and religious minority communities for decades. The Tatmadaw has killed more than 1,100 civilians since the coup

68% of Myanmar’s population is ethnic Burman and 88% of the population is Buddhist, making minority communities a vulnerable target for Tatmadaw violence. Many ethnic minority communities are also non-Buddhist—the Rohingya, for example, are majority Muslim while other groups, such as the Chin, are majority Christian. Both groups have been heavily persecuted by the Tatmadaw which launched a targeted campaign of violence against the Rohingya in 2017. The UN declared that campaign a genocide, though the U.S. has yet to make that designation.

“It is time to cut the economic lifeline of the illegal military regime while providing humanitarian lifelines to the people of Burma/Myanmar,” the letter to Secretary General Guterres says. “With current UN and ASEAN efforts failing to achieve any progress, the office of the United Nations Secretary-General has the authority to mobilise the international community to support his diplomatic efforts to achieve change in Burma/Myanmar.”

A bipartisan group of U.S. congresspersons and senators introduced legislation last week to sanction the Tatmadaw for violating human rights, authorize humanitarian funding, and promote democracy in Myanmar. The bill, introduced by Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), already has bipartisan support around Capitol Hill.

The legislation authorizes targeted sanctions against those who helped stage the February 1 coup and who, in the months since, have repressed human rights. In addition, the bill creates a legal framework to support the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar. This includes the authorization to prohibit the import of precious gems from Burma to the U.S. and the creation of a new position at the Department of State to coordinate U.S. and international efforts on Myanmar.

On the humanitarian front, the bill authorizes support for civil society and humanitarian efforts in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, “and the surrounding region” where a severe humanitarian crisis is developing as the Tatmadaw displaces hundreds of thousands of Burmese from their homes.

“ICC is encouraged by the international condemnation of the Tatmadaw’s assault on democracy and human rights,” said Jay Church, ICC’s Advocacy Manager for Southeast Asia. “The Tatmadaw’s history of violence against vulnerable minority communities is despicable and had only intensified since they took complete control of the government in February. It is incumbent upon the international community to push back against the Tatmadaw, support freedom in Myanmar, and ensure that a twisted and evil regime is not allowed to take over Myanmar.”

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