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In what would appear to be an astonishing attempt to regulate what citizens do in private, the government of Burma’s Kachin province has issued tough new regulations on fasting and prayer.

Burmese Christian kids (CSW photo)

The chairman of Maw Wan Ward in Phakant Township of Burma’s Kachin State has delivered a letter to local churches, titled “Concerning Christians conducting cultural training.”

The letter cites an order by the General Township Administration Department requiring Christians to submit a request at least 15 days in advance for permission to conduct “short-term Bible study, Bible study, Sunday school, reading the Bible, fasting, prayer, seasonal Bible study and rosary of the virgin Mary.” A request for permission must be accompanied by recommendations from other government bureaucrats and must be submitted to the Township Administration Office.

The Christian advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide has obtained a copy of the document. Churches in Burma already were required to obtain permission for any event other than Sunday services.

“For many years, successive Burmese regimes have suppressed freedom of religion and imposed serious restrictions on Christians and other religious minorities,” says CSW East Asia team leader Benedict Rogers. “Christians and Muslims in particular have been the target of discrimination and persecution.”

Burma is already regarded as one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom, and is one of the US State Department’s Countries of Particular Concern, Rogers noted. “To impose a requirement on churches and individuals to seek permission to read the Bible, pray, fast and hold a Sunday school is extreme.”

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