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Sign of the times: Suu Kyi discusses freedom with young Christians

Myanmar Christians talk freedom with Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi attends last week's Christian conference on nation building Suu Kyi attends last week's Christian conference on nation building
  • Thomas Toe, Yangon
  • Myanmar
  • July 25, 2012
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In the latest sign of the changes sweeping through Myanmar, 450 Christians held a conference with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday to discuss the role of young Catholics and Protestants in the new nation. Such an event would have been unthinkable even a year ago in the predominantly Buddhist country, given the previous restrictions on the Nobel Laureate and religious minorities.

In its annual assessment of religious freedom in Myanmar, conducted last September, the US State Department noted “there was no change in the government’s limited degree of respect for religious freedom.

“Religious activities and organizations were subject to restrictions on freedom of expression, association and assembly,” it added.

But following the opening of the new parliament in March last year and a subsequent series of reforms, young Christians in Myanmar should take a “greater role” in the development of the country, said Suu Kyi.

“The most important question is: What do we want our country to be?” Suu Kyi asked those gathered at the home of Yangon Archbishop Charles Bo.

There had been few opportunities for young Myanmar people in the past, said Archbishop Bo, meaning many had suffered from unemployment. This had led a large number of the brightest young people to leave the country in search of work, he added.

He urged Myanmar’s young Christians “to start running with confidence and take part in building the nation, whether in education, health or social development.”

Whether or not young Christians participate in these types of activities will largely depend on how confident they feel in doing so, given the previous half a century of restrictions.

Shaung Shaung, a young Baptist woman attending last week’s conference, said Christians were starting to see tangible signs of greater religious freedom in Myanmar meaning their activities no longer needed to be kept underground.

“We need to show our ability in the right way and not bury it in a hidden place,” she told ucanews.com. “We should work together to get involved in the right areas for the development of our country, regardless of what religion we are.”

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