|On Sept. 10, Pastor Tandin Wangyal was sentenced to nearly four years in prison on charges of receiving money for spreading Christianity in the Buddhist nation of Bhutan. The charges were added after Pastor Tandin was detained for conducting an illegal religious gathering. The pastor has been released on bail but may still be forced to serve the prison term. The pastor’s co-worker, M. B. Thapa, was sentenced to two years and four months or a fine equivalent to $1,678. He was released after paying the fine. VOM contacts are concerned for the welfare of Pastor Tandin’s wife, Nengboi, and their three young sons, especially if the pastor is required to serve his sentence.|
Two pastors arrested
Pastors Tandin Wangyal and Mon Bdr. Thapa were arrested in Bhutan on 5 March. Invited to hold a three-day seminar at a house church in Dorokha, Samtse, they ministered to over 25 Christians on the first day. However, a neighbour reported to authorities that they did not have a permit to gather.
Tandin and Thapa were arrested the next day, 5 March, while taking a sick child to Khapdani Basic Health Unit. They were held for 49 days before being released on bail on April 22 and charged with (a) conducting a gathering for religious purpose without prior approval, (b) showing a film without certificate of approval from the concerned media authorities, and (c) collecting ‘illegal funds’.
The two pastors are due in court in the capital city, Thimphu, on 5 May and could face significant prison sentences. The last person to be convicted of showing the Jesus film was released in 2013 after three years in prison!
Bhutan: Bhutanese pastors released on bail
09 May 2014
Bhutanese pastors Tandin Wangyal and Mon Thapa appeared before the Dorokha court on 5 May and submitted their defence to the three charges levelled against them: (a) conducting a gathering for religious purpose without prior approval, (b) showing a film without certificate of approval from the concerned media authorities, and (c) collecting ‘illegal funds’.
Tandin and Thapa were arrested while carrying a sick child to a clinic in Khabdaney village. They had arrived in the area the previous day to hold a three-day seminar for 30 Christians who came from neighbouring towns.
Bhutan, a Buddhist-majority nation comprising more than 733,000 people, transitioned to a constitutional democratic monarchy in 2008, after a century of absolute monarchy. Bhutan’s constitution states in Section 4, Article 7, that ‘citizens shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion,’ and adds ‘no person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement,’ – also known as proselytism.
Despite the constitution’s promise of religious freedom, Bhutan’s governing body that regulates religious organisations, Chhoedey Lhentshog, has yet to recognise Christianity as an official religion, alongside Buddhism and Hinduism.
The miniscule Christian community remained underground until 2008. Bhutan transitioned to a constitutional democratic monarchy in 2008 after a century of absolute monarchy.
Translation: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Encouraging update at bottom…and a positive action you can take.
Bhutan: a snapshot
Tucked between China and India, Bhutan is 31 on Open Doors’ World Watch List. Here Christians can worship privately but struggle to meet together or secure official permission to do so. Christianity isn’t recognised as an official religion and conversion is viewed with suspicion – Christians face threats and pressure to return to Buddhism.