Two Christian pastors in Bhutan were sentenced to prison by a court on Thursday for accepting funds for evangelism and for organizing illegal religious gatherings. Both of these pastors were arrested by police in Bhutan earlier this year and held for almost 50 days before having an official charge leveled against them. Although Bhutan claims it supports religious freedom for its citizens, the government uses the country’s laws to discriminate against Christians and other unwanted religious minorities.
9/15/2014 Bhutan (Worthy News) – A court in Bhutan Thursday sentenced one pastor to nearly four years in prison for accepting funds for evangelism and another to almost two and a half years for organizing an illegal religious gathering, according to Morning Star News.
“All this time they have denied that it was a faith-based arrest, but everything since day one has revolved around faith,” said Pastor Tandin Wangyal.
Pastors Wangyal and M.B. Thapa were both arrested on March 5 after they reached Khapdani village in Dorokha to attend a foundation-laying ceremony.
The two verdicts from the court in Dorokha, Samtse District convicted Wangyal of accepting more than $11,000 from a foreign Christian organization to spread Christianity in the Buddhist country while Thapa was sentenced for organizing a public gathering without having obtained prior permission.
Wangyal was granted bail for one year after paying a fine of $763(US). However, authorities refused to release the pastor because of a problem with the paperwork for his release, but as Thapa paid a much larger fine of $1,678(US) he was exempted him from spending any time in prison.
Wangyal was convicted under Article 71 of the Civil Society Organization Act of Bhutan, which outlaws raising funds for activities “in contravention of the laws of the country” and without prior permission.