Two Pastors in Bhutan Sentenced

Monday, September 15, 2014

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

(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.

Bhutan's Civil Society Organization Act puts restrictions on all monetary collections: "No person shall collect or ask for any contribution or charity to aid or help any activity, which is in contravention with the laws of the Country, and a collection in a public place must not be conducted unless the promoters of the collection hold a public collections certificate from the Authority and the collection is conducted in accordance with this Act."

Christians are reluctantly allowed to meet in homes or halls to worship as Bhutan has no church buildings.