Canadian pastor David Lah (center) arrives for a hearing at a township court in Yangon on Aug. 6. He was jailed for holding a church service amid restrictions in place to halt the spread of the coronavirus. (Photo: AFP)
Controversial Myanmar-born pastor David Lah has been sentenced to a three-month jail term after being found guilty of defying the Covid-19 ban in the Buddhist-majority country.
A court in Yangon, the commercial hub of the country, sentenced Lah and Wai Tun, a colleague of the pastor, to three months each on Aug. 6, according to media reports.
The final verdict came after several court hearings in June and July for the pastor, who has been denied bail by the judge.
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 pandemic on March 13. They faced three years in prison under the 2013 Natural Disaster Management Law.
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.
At least 71 people in Yangon have been linked to Lah’s church services in Insein and Mayagone townships.
Myanmar has reported 357 Covid-19 cases including six deaths and 305 recoveries, according to the latest data.
Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has warned that consumerist Christians who follow the false prophets of the prosperity Gospel trivialize God as a “business partner.”
Instead of receiving God’s seed and giving hundred-fold, they are arrogant enough to “sow seeds to God” by “planting 100 dollars to God to reap 1,000 dollars,” he said.
“These Christians have almost destroyed Christianity in many parts. God’s seed that sprouted in them was scorched by the ferocious growth of thorns of travesty: of turning the liberating Gospel into a lucrative Gospel of prosperity,” Cardinal Bo said in a homily on July 12, castigating “shameless merchants who monetize the good news for material gains.”