The ICJ held a two-day workshop on 23-24 November 2019 in Mandalay on the application in Myanmar of international law and standards on freedom of religion and belief. Some 40 participants from across the country, including human rights defenders, religious leaders and lawyers who work on issues of freedom of religion or belief, attended the event.
The two-day workshop was conducted in order to provide a safe platform for participants to discuss pressing issues concerning the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Myanmar, with a particular focus on protecting places of worship. It allowed participants to share challenges encountered in their spheres of activity and explore ways to address state regulations that disproportionately impact minority religions.
ICJ Associate Legal Adviser Jenny Domino introduced the international standards on FoRB applicable to Myanmar, including how FoRB affects other human rights such as the right to freedom of expression. She discussed the different constitutional approaches to protecting FoRB in Myanmar and the Philippines, and presented the applicable international standards relevant to the protection of places of worship in conflict settings. ICJ Legal Researcher Dr Ja Seng Ing shared the legal and practical challenges to protecting places of worship in Myanmar.
Based on their own independent research, the participants discussed restrictions placed on the practice of religion or belief, particularly with respect to places of worship. The participants shared challenges they encountered while working on FoRB issues, such as the shrinking civic space for inter-religious dialogue. They also discussed possible strategies to push for legislative and administrative reform to protect FoRB in Myanmar.
The workshop is part of the ICJ’s ongoing effort to convene civil society actors and lawyers in Myanmar with a view to advancing FoRB in the country, and builds on the ICJ’s regional work on this theme.
Ja Seng Ing, ICJ Legal Researcher, e: jaseng.ing(a)icj.org
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