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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_custom_heading text=”By Gina Goh” font_container=”tag:h6|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1563982964662{margin-bottom: 22px !important;}”][vc_single_image image=”109146″ img_size=”full” add_caption=”yes” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]07/24/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern)At the Second Annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, hosted by the State Department last week, a pastor from Myanmar’s Kachin ethnic group recounted his ordeal of being jailed and tortured for more than a year.

Pastor Langjaw Gam Seng, along with his uncle, Dumdaw Nawng Latt, were arrested on December 24, 2016 and wrongfully charged for exposing the Burmese Army’s (Tatmadaw) airstrike against a church in conflict-affected Shan State.

They spent 15 months at Lashio Central Prison in Myanmar’s Shan State under harsh conditions. They were only unconditionally released on April 17, 2018, thanks to presidential amnesty granted to 8,490 prisoners, including prisoners of conscience and arbitrarily detained individuals.

Seng told reporters that, at the beginning of his incarceration, his hands were constantly tied behind his back and he passed out due to lack of food.

“I was detained, handcuffed, and shackled for over one month with my eyes sealed and I was unable to see for an entire month,” Seng explained through a translator. “And they put me in something like a dungeon for an entire month and gave me minimal food.” In prison, he went in and out of consciousness for several weeks.

Seng added that he was not given a blanket to keep himself warm, despite the cold temperatures near Myanmar’s border with China.

“Managing to sleep with steel handcuffs behind my back was the most horrifying part,” he added.

Since 2011, the ongoing fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has displaced more than 100,000 in Kachin State from the predominantly Christian Kachin ethnic group. Seng was involved in providing aid to victims of violence and even helping to bury the dead in the midst of armed conflicts.

“Many times, we have experienced repression because of our belief in our country,” Seng said of the Buddhist-majority nation. “Our country is very diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. We want our society to be plural and not oppressed by one singular state religion.”[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”“Our country is very diverse, multi-ethnic and multi-religious. We want our society to be plural and not oppressed by one singular state religion.”” font_container=”tag:h5|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1563983061579{margin-top: 50px !important;margin-bottom: 60px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1563983105806{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]

“I can attest to the fact that with my own experience, the welfare of the society or even nation is incumbent upon the liberty that they enjoy. I do not want another person to go through the same ordeal that I have gone through,” he continued.

Seng was one of the 27 survivors of religious persecution who met with President Donald Trump at the White House last Wednesday.

A day prior to their meeting, the State Department announced that Tatmadaw chief Min Aung Hlaing, along with three other top officers and their families, were banned from visiting the United States for their role in orchestrating a crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State.

“The torture divides our society and really disintegrates our country by infringing upon people’s liberty. I really want this to stop,” Seng said. “Secretary Pompeo’s designation is in response to these actions, so I welcome that.”

International Christian Concern’s (ICC) Regional Manager for Southeast Asia was delighted to meet Seng in Washington D.C., as ICC has followed his case closely and provided assistance to his family during this difficult season. Seng expressed his joy in meeting the organization that helped him and reiterated his appreciation to ICC’s assistance in times of need.

Earlier in April, Pastor Seng shared, “Thank you ICC for reaching out to us and providing us with the farming tractor for us to make a living, especially when we were having a very hard time. With this truck you provided, we are able to help many people. It is the most essential [tool] for me to provide for my family.”

He continued, “We still are facing so many difficulties today. Since many people living in the village left their homes to take refuge somewhere safe due to the resumed war, we had to start everything from ground zero. There are so many difficulties and hardships we cannot describe. ICC’s aid has been a great help for us to meet our basic needs because things are very hard here like traveling from one place to another and to earn basic income for food and clothing.”

Today, both Seng and his uncle continue to serve their congregation in Munggu, although life is very challenging, as locals are often arrested and tortured without cause by the Tatmadaw. They have asked ICC to pray more fervently for their villagers’ safety amidst the ongoing conflicts in Kachin land.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]