On February 1st of 2021, the military of Burma launched a coup to overthrow the country’s democratically elected government. People have taken to the streets across Burma, also known as Myanmar, to protest against the coup. Myanmar’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been detained along with members of her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). The coup threatens to further inflame the ongoing violence perpetrated by the military for years against ethnic and religious minorities, with the military destroying whole villages and places of worship for Christians, Muslims, and other minority communities.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has monitored religious freedom conditions in Burma (also known as Myanmar) since the Commission first began its work in 1999. In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the State Department designate Burma as a “Country of Particular Concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). The Burmese government and military continue to commit widespread and egregious religious freedom violations, particularly against Rohingya Muslims – nearly one million of whom have been driven out of the country into refugee camps in Bangladesh. Ethnic-driven conflict and degradation of other civil rights in this majority Buddhist country often coincide with religious differences, thereby severely restricting freedom of religion or belief.
Shortly after the coup took place, 21Wilberforce launched a campaign to support freedom for the people of Myanmar. Advocacy campaigns are pivotal to securing lasting change to combat religious oppression. The greater the public support for a cause, the more likely policy-makers will adopt and prioritize issues.
Campaign components include a resource page in the 21Wilberforce online Freedom Center rich with a situation analysis and news on the situation in Burma, a fact sheet and list of action items that the public can engage in to stand with the citizens of Burma including specific prayer requests, a social media idea and information on how to contact members of Congress to encourage them to support the democratic rights of the Burmese people.