From December 14-16, 2020, IGE held a Religion & Rule of Law training program in partnership with the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) and Brigham Young University Law Center’s International Center for Law & Religion Studies (ICLRS). The training focused on church leaders, legal scholars, lawyers, journalists, and civil society leaders from the Kachin people, a majority-Christian ethnic minority group in Myanmar that has been embroiled in conflict with the Burmese military. Throughout the conflict, which has been characterized as a “slow genocide,” Kachin civilians have suffered death, torture, rape, and other atrocities along with the destruction of villages and churches. There are currently over 100,000 Kachin who have been forced from their homes and are living in refugee camps along the Myanmar-China border.
The training program represents the second collaborative effort between IGE, ICLRS, and KBC after the success of the inaugural training held the previous year in Mandalay. Due to the pandemic, this year’s training was held online. There were 50 participants from 10 different regions of Kachin State in Myanmar. While the first program focused solely on church leaders, this year’s program was expanded to include legal scholars, lawyers, journalists, and civil society organization leaders working in Kachin State.
The training provided a rare opportunity for Kachin leaders to hear from international experts and practitioners in religion, law, and religious freedom. Case studies from different countries such as Singapore, China, Indonesia, and the U.S. provided insights on the challenges and results of different models. One of the participants, Ting Ying, who serves as KBC’s Director of Youth Education, shared, “What should we do in the midst of the chaos and conflicts [that Kachin face]? That was the question I had. This training answered my question…Having a chance to learn from the case studies was very valuable…I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to the organizers and faculty of this training.”