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Clergy hope for more religious freedom

Christians remain in minority and disadvantaged, say priests, but more free

Clergy hope for more religious freedom
Catholic parishioners celebrate outside a church reporter, Yangon

May 13, 2011

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The Church is optimistic about religious freedom for the Christian minoirty under the civilian-led government that took office in March, clergy said yesterday. Several of them spoke on condition of anonymity to One, from Taungngu, Shan state, said: “As some of the ethnic leaders are in the civilian government, I do hope we will get some sort of religious freedom.” In the past, “when we asked to construct a new church, they seldom gave permission. As the country has a Buddhist majority, the local authorities were concerned that some Buddhists may be converted to Christianity. “We hope the new government will work for the people of Myanmar regardless of religion and race.” Another Shan state priest said: “As Buddhism is the dominant religion in the country, some of the non-Christians consider that Christianity is a foreign religion.” Although there are some limitations in the country regarding the construction of new churches and celebration of Church activities, “thank God we are free to expose our faith and practice our religious devotions in the Churches,” he said. There are some limitations for the minority Christian religion in the country, the priest explained. “For example, if a Christian applies for a job in a government office, he or she will not qualify or be selected. Officials will find out some reasons and excuses to reject the person, if the person is a Christian. And that’s why there are very few Christians who become Government officers in the country.” The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), whose members are appointed by the US president and the Congress, in its latest annual report, entitled “International Religious Freedom 2011,” placed Myanmar alongside countries of particular concern such as Egypt, Pakistan, China, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. Related report Myanmar citizens doubt fair polls are possible MY14210

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