Christians, considered an ethnic minority in Myanmar, are being forced to convert to Buddhism, a rights group says. According to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), students from Myanmar’s Christian Chin ethnic minority have been forced to convert to Buddhism, shave their heads, and wear monastic robes. "President Thein Sein's government claims that religious freedom is protected by law but in reality Buddhism is treated as the de facto state religion," Program Director of the CHRO, Salai Ling said. The rights group says that Chin students are often physically abused for failing to recite Buddhist scriptures.
The minority lives in the country’s poor and remote west, an area that is a predominantly Buddhist one.According to the CHRO, the Chin minority relies on farming, making it vulnerable to recruitment to military schools which offer free food, education, and government jobs. However, the military schools force Christians to convert to Buddhism. On Sunday, hundreds of Buddhist monks rallied in support of President Thein Sein’s suggestion to send Rohingyas to a third country willing to take them in, as a solution to the deadly ethnic clashes backed by security forces. Reports say some 650 Rohingya Muslims, also an ethnic minority group in Myanmar, have been killed in the Rakhine state in the west of the country in recent months. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced. The Buddhist-majority government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas and classifies them as illegal migrants, although the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century. The UN human rights authorities blame Myanmar’s security forces for the violence, who are believed to have been targeting the Muslims rather than bringing the ethnic violence to an end in the country. SZH/JR