In an address to the UK Parliament in London, Myanmar’s Cardinal Charles Maung Bo called the need to protect freedom of religion among the “biggest challenges” facing the country in a new democratic era.
“We desperately need to work to defend rights without discrimination, to establish equal rights for all people in Myanmar, of every ethnicity and religion,” he said on Wednesday, according to a report by World Watch Monitor.
He called the plight of persecuted Rohingya Muslims, hundreds of thousands of who have been confined to squalid camps and villages in Western Myanmar since 2012, “an appalling scar on the conscience of my country.”
“They are among the most marginalized, dehumanized and persecuted people in the world,” he said. “They are treated worse than animals. Stripped of their citizenship, rejected by neighboring countries, they are rendered stateless. No human being deserves to be treated this way,” he said.
“Without [a solution], the prospects for genuine peace and true freedom for my country will be denied, for no-one can sleep easy at night knowing how one particular people group are dying simply due to their race and religion.”
He invited the new government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, to invite the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to visit the country.
He also criticized the new set of race and religion laws, which were passed last year in the lead-up to the election. Among other things, they restrict interfaith marriage and conversion.
Bo said they “pose a serious danger for our country.”
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