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Destruction of Cross in Chin (Burma) condemned

The Chin Human Rights Organization has strongly condemned the destruction of a Christian cross in Chin State, in Burma recently......

The Chin Human Rights Organization has strongly condemned the destruction of a Christian cross in Chin State, in Burma recently. The Chiang Mai (Thailand) based rights body claimed that the cross, located on a hill above Khyauk-yaw village of Mkui Circus, Mindat Township was destroyed following orders from the military rulers in Nay Pie Taw.

"We have learnt that the 23-foot high concrete Christian cross in Mindat Township of southern Chin State was pulled down by some goons on July 24. The authorities including the district and township level Peace and Development Council, the District Religious Affairs Department and the Hill Region Buddhist Mission were aware of the incident, but they did not prevent it," said an advocacy member of CHRO.
Approximately 90 per cent of Chin State's population is Christian, making it the single largest Christian-concentrated state in a predominantly Buddhist Burma. Christianity was introduced to the Chin people by the American Baptist Missionaries in 1889 and has since become an integral part of Chin identity. Increased militarization in Chin State since the time of the popular uprising in 1988 has led to a dramatic increase in human rights violations against the local population, including religious persecution. In 2004 CHRO published "Religious Persecution: A Campaign of Ethnocide Against Chin Christians in Burma, documenting the destruction of churches and Christian infrastructure; the arrest, torture and extrajudicial killings of Christian pastors; and restrictions on freedom of assembly and worship.
Since 1994, the regime has destroyed nine Christian crosses in Falam, Hakha, Kanpalet, Mindat, Matupi, Paletwa, Teddim, Tonzang and Thantlang Townships. In some cases, Buddhist religious infrastructure such as pagodas, monasteries and statues have been built on the very sites where Christian crosses were destroyed, sometimes with forced labour exacted from the local Christian population. The regime has also prohibited the construction and renovation of Christian churches. By contrast, according to the regime's own data, eight pagodas and 56 monasteries have been built by the authorities in Chin State in the last 20 years, with full funding from State Ministries such as the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and Ministry for Progress of Border Areas and National Races Development Affairs.

Rachel Fleming of CHRO Advocacy Director however pointed out that the article 34 of the ruling State Peace and Development Council's 2008 Constitution supposedly guarantees freedom of religion, subject to public order, morality or health and to the other provisions of this Constitution. Similarly, he added, article 348 refers to freedom from discrimination on religious grounds, while 354(d) elaborates on religious and other fundamental freedoms.