Various church leaders in Hakha town held a prayer meeting to boycott and not to adopt the draft of the ‘Religious Conversion Law’ in Myanmar, drafted by the Ministry of Religious department, at Carson Hall on 16 June. At the meeting, Pastor Bawi Cung Lian said, “This draft can hinder the progress of Christianity. So we held a prayer meet not to adopt the draft and to change the mindset of the concerned authorities and the President.”
About 800 local people attended the meet held from morning 7 to 8 at Carson Hall in Hakha town.
The draft “Religious Conversion Law”, published in state-run media on 27 May 2014, sets out a process for applying for official permission to convert from one religion to another.
In a media statement the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) said that ‘It grants Township-level officials from various government departments sweeping powers to determine whether an applicant has exercised free will in choosing to change his or her religion.
Those found to be applying for conversion “with the intent of insulting or destroying a religion” could be punished by up to two years’ imprisonment, raising the prospect of arbitrary arrests and detention for those wishing to convert from Theravada Buddhism – the faith of the majority in Burma/Myanmar – to a minority religion, or no religion at all.’
Members of the Chin Baptist Church demonstrated before the Embassy of Myanmar in Washington DC, USA on June 13, while US based Chin affairs officials sent a letter to President Thein Sein, asking to cancel and not to discuss in the Parliament session the draft ‘Religious Conversion Law’ in Myanmar.