Burma Not Treating the Church Fairly, Says Missionary

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ROME, JAN. 19, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Catholic Church in Burma is persevering despite persecution by the government, says a missionary.



The Church has not given up its "evangelizing mission," which is stronger in that Southeast Asia nation because it is "close to the poor, those who suffer, and the oppressed," says Father Vito del Prete, secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Union.

Father del Prete made his comments last week when inaugurating the meeting "Freedom of Religion: Human Right Denied in Burma."

In Burma, which in 1988 officially took the name Union of Myanmar, "the military junta that has governed for over 40 years perseveres in a constant persecution against the Catholic Church and human rights," Father del Prete said.

"Missions cannot have schools, Christians are prohibited any external manifestation, [and] any kind of apostolate or meeting, and communities are regarded as accomplices of the northern guerrillas," he added.

According to Father del Prete, "the situation is different toward 'state' Buddhism -- not authentic but imposed on the population as an attempt to control the social fabric -- and Islam, with its 400,000 faithful, which is tolerated."

U.S. government data say 89% of Burma's 42 million people are Buddhists; 4% are Muslims.