Pastor David Lah, a Myanmar-born Canadian passport holder, is a controversial figure because of his polarizing views. (Photo: Facebook)
Controversial Myanmar-born pastor David Lah has been released from a prison in Yangon following a jail term after being found guilty of defying the Covid-19 ban.
Lah was freed from Insein prison on Aug. 14 and on the same day he departed from Yangon airport to fly to Canada, according to church sources.
The authorities appear to have quietly organized his departure upon his release from prison to avoid a backlash from nationalists in the Buddhist-majority country.
He was sentenced three months in jail, but after a judge took into consideration the time Lah had spent in prison awaiting his hearing, he was able to walk free on Aug. 14, media reports said.
A court in Yangon sentenced Lah and colleague Wai Tun to three months each on Aug. 6 following court hearings in June and July, after he was arrested on May 20. He was to complete three months in jail on Aug. 20.
Christians shared the news of Lah’s release on Facebook with several hailing it as “good news,” praising Alleluia and commenting “God is good all the time.”
Lah and colleague were charged under the 2013 Natural Disaster Management Law that carries a maximum sentence of three years.
Observers noted the speed of the court hearings in a country where almost all cases take several months or years to reach a final verdict.
Lah and three others were charged with defying a ban on large gatherings imposed to tackle the pandemic on March 13.
In a video clip that went viral in mid-April, the pastor told worshippers that those who are really centered on Christ would not be infected by Covid-19.
Lah and several of his followers, however, contracted the virus in late April and were sent to a government-run hospital in Yangon’s outskirts for treatment.
With a surge in religious bigotry on social media following the activities of the pastor, Christian leaders in Myanmar 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 influential pastor has strong support among the Christian community in the country including rock singer Myo Gyi and rapper Je-Me, who is a Catholic.
At least 71 people in Yangon have been linked to Lah’s church services in Insein and Mayagone townships.
As of Aug. 21, Myanmar had reported 409 Covid-19 cases including six deaths and 333 recoveries, according to health officials.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has said most non-Catholic Christians, especially those from rich countries, the evangelical and the prosperity Gospel Pharisees, have “a hidden agenda of blunting the message of hope to the poor by relegating Mary’s role in redemption.”
“The economic and political worldview of many non-Catholic Christians has led to a silencing of Mary and God’s dream for the world,” he said in a homily on Aug. 16, Assumption Sunday.