By BosNewsLife News Center
THIMPHU, BHUTAN (BosNewsLife) -- Family and friends are searching for two Christian government workers jailed in Bhutan for showing the internationally acclaimed 'Jesus' film, a well informed source said Monday, July 10, on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
The two men were identified as 'John' Tamang, 35, and ‘Benjamin’ Sharma, 32, who are also known as 'Benjamin' Budhu Mani Dungana and 'John' Purna Bahadhur Tamang.
"The authorities keep changing them from jail to jail and nobody knows their current whereabouts. Both of these brothers were government employees, but have been terminated from their service due to the current dilemma," added the source in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife via religious rights group Jubilee Campaign USA.
Last month another advocacy group, International Christian Concern (ICC), with website www.persecution.org, said Benjamin and John were given ten days to appeal to the courts for bail to avoid long prison sentences for showing the 'Jesus' film in a Buddhist home.
They were detained January 7 after "neighbors reported to the police about the ongoing worship. The Government of Bhutan has falsely charged them with breaching the Security Act, but they have not disclosed details of the charges against the men," the Christian source said.
The 'Jesus' film on the life of Christ has been shown around the world, often by preachers like Benjamin and John, since its initial release in 1979. It had over 6 billion viewings, while over 201 million people indicated decisions to accept "Christ as their personal Savior and Lord," organizers said.
The Christian source in Bhutan source suggested there was confusion over the current status of the detained men. "These two brothers have been sentenced to four years of imprisonment, but the outcome [of the final trial] is yet to be known. [Before the men disappeared] none of the family members were able to meet them in the jail except a couple of their friends."
It has been difficult to get reactions from Bhutan officials. Christian rights watchers said the arrest came as a major setback for Benjamin, who is married and has three children. He worked as a General Nurse Midwife (GNM) at Jigme Dorji Wangchuk national referral hospital.
John, who is married with one child, was an Auditor at the Royal Audit Authority. Most of the tiny Southeast Asian kingdom’s population of over two million is said to be Lamaistic Buddhist, while 25 percent is observing Indian- and Nepalese-influenced Hinduism, and Christians are apparently persecuted. ICC said earlier it had urged its supporters and "all concerned Christians" to "politely" ask government officials to release them.
The officials were identified as Secretary to His Majesty the King of Bhutan Dasho Pema Wangchen (phone: +975-2-322962, fax: +975-2-323232) Chief Justice of Royal Court of Justice, Lyonpo Sonam Tobgye (phone: +975-2-322613, fax: +975-2-322921) Prime Minister of Bhutan Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup (email: email@example.com, phone: +975-2-322129, fax: +975-2-323153) and Minister of Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs Lyonpo Jigme Y. Thinley (phone: +975-2-322643 and fax: +975-2-322214). (With reports from Bhutan and BosNewsLife Research).
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