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Myanmar

Myanmar pastors face lawsuits for defying Covid-19 ban

Country's vice president to be tested for coronavirus after meeting one of the charged pastors

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Myanmar pastors face lawsuits for defying Covid-19 ban

Pastor David Lah, a Canadian passport holder, is a controversial figure because of his polarizing views. (Photo: Facebook)

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Two Myanmar pastors and two followers are facing charges for holding a church service in contravention of a ban on large gatherings imposed to tackle Covid-19.

Police have filed charges against them under the natural disaster management law, according to a Yangon regional government statement on April 14.

If found guilty, the four face a maximum of one year in prison, fines or both.

The charges came a day after five people who joined the church service tested positive for coronavirus and were admitted to Yangon’s infectious disease hospital.

The charges did not give a specific date for the church service but media reports said the gathering was held in early April.

Yangon’s government announced on March 13 that mass gatherings were banned until the end of April.

One of the charged pastors, David Lah, a Canadian passport holder, is a controversial figure because of his polarizing views. In a video clip that went viral on social media recently, Lah told worshipers that those who are really centered on Jesus will not be infected by Covid-19.

Myanmar president’s office spokesman told reporters that Vice President Henry Van Thio, his wife and about 30 others will be tested for the virus after photos of Van Thio with Lah were posted on social media.

Van Thio, an ethnic Chin and member of the Pentecostal Church, met with Lah at the Myanmar National Youth Conference in Naypyitaw in February but has reportedly not had contact with the pastor again.

The Myanmar Council of Churches (MCC) said it had informed its member churches and organizations three times to follow the government order and health ministry instructions.

“Amid the situation of pastors holding church services which are broadcast live to followers, we completely need to avoid the terms that may divide and harm non-Christian brothers and sisters,” the MCC said in a statement on April 14.

Christian leaders have appealed to people not to post and share fake news, photos and videos on Facebook that may be offensive to religion.

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said on her Facebook page on April 14 that “the people are united in their efforts to overcome the common enemy of Covid-19. One of the most important needs now is the effective implementation of quarantine.”

Myanmar has recorded 74 confirmed coronavirus cases including four deaths.

Nearly two million coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide with the death toll reaching 126,681, according to the latest data.

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