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Myanmar court denies bail to Christian pastor

David Lah faces three years in prison for holding church services despite the Covid-19 ban

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Myanmar court denies bail to Christian pastor

Pastor David Lah is escorted for his trial at Mayangone Township Court in Yangon on June 3 following his arrest on charges of organizing religious gatherings despite a ban on mass events. (Photo: AFP)

Controversial Myanmar pastor David Lah has been denied bail by a court in Yangon after he was arrested for holding church services defying the Covid-19 ban.

A judge said after the hearing on June 3 that the court does not need to grant bail for the lawsuits that carry prison sentences of three years and above, according to media reports.

The pastor was arrested on May 20 following a 21-day quarantine in a hotel in Yangon after recovering from the coronavirus, which Lah and several of his followers had contracted in April.

Lah and three others were charged with defying a ban on large gatherings imposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic on March 13. They could face three years in prison under the 2013 Natural Disaster Management Law. The next court hearing is on June 8.

In a video clip that went viral in mid-April, the pastor told worshipers that those who are really centered on Christ would not be infected by Covid-19.

With a surge in religious bigotry on social media following the activities of the pastor, Christian leaders in Myanmar have appealed to citizens to unite in the fight against Covid-19.

Lah, a Myanmar-born Canadian passport holder, is a controversial figure because of his polarizing views. He is also widely criticized for his anti-LGBT and Islamophobic rhetoric.

The scandal even touched Vice President Henry Van Thio, a member of the Pentecostal Church, who had attended a service with Lah in Naypyitaw, the remote capital, in February, though he later tested negative.

At least 71 people in Yangon have been linked to Lah’s church services in Insein and Mayagone townships.

Myanmar has reported 234 Covid-19 cases including six deaths and 145 recoveries, according to the latest data.

Cardinal warns of prosperity gospel

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has warned that the growing influence of the so-called prosperity gospel is a major obstacle to the spread of Christianity in the East.

He said the religious traditions of the East like Hinduism and Buddhism insist on giving up luxuries and living a life of simplicity.

“To many people in the East, Christianity seen from the prosperity gospel view is another model of the market economy of the West,” Cardinal Bo said, adding “it has nothing to contribute towards the wisdom and simplicity of eastern religions.”

During his Pentecost Sunday sermon on May 31, the cardinal said prosperity gospel preachers abuse the Holy Spirit since they often indulge in prophecies and speak in tongues.

He said the prosperity gospel teaches the Bible packaged as a sweet promise of prosperity.“The prosperity gospel makes bold claims: God will give you your heart’s desires: money in the bank, a healthy body, a thriving family,” he said.

Cardinal Bo added that its preachers are called “mega pastors” preaching to “mega churches.” They preach a seed theology. If you send 100 dollars (seed) to the ministry, God will give you a thousand dollars (harvest), he said.

The 72-year-old cardinal said Christianity is not an emotional rollercoaster. “One of the reasons the East avoids Christianity is the noise and the din associated with the so-called Christian missions,” he added.

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