Myanmar pastor who called out abuses to Trump escapes criminal prosecution

September 11, 2019 by Lindy Lowry in Stories of Persecution

“I’m … from Baptist Convention from Northern Burma. As Christians in Myanmar, we have been very been oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government.”

Pastor Hkalam Samson was among the handful of believers who shared their story with President Trump at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July.

Samson went on to comment on the lack of religious freedom in the Southeast Asian country:  “ …  we don’t have chance, many, for religious freedom. And also, ethnic armed groups fight against the central military government. So, please, American government focus on ethnic people and the ethnic leader to get general democracy and federalism.”

Below, persecuted believers, including Pastor Samson, share their stories with President Trump. Pastor Samson speaks at the beginning of the video.

Three-month chain reaction

From July to early September, the pastor’s public remarks set in motion a three-month chain of events involving Myanmar’s military, the U.S, State Department and millions of praying believers in Kachin State and around the world. After the pastor’s comments in July were broadcast on U.S. news outlets, a month later Myanmar’s military scrutinized Samson’s remarks. Army Lt. Col. Than Htike filed a criminal complaint against Samson, accusing him of defamation.

In September, the U.S. State Department got involved, saying they were “deeply concerned” about the complaint: “The Lieutenant Colonel’s criminal complaint against Reverend Samson seeks to unduly limit his freedom of expression and potentially could disrupt his critical work on behalf of tens of thousands of internally displaced people.”

According to Reliefweb, Samson’s Kachin Baptist Convention has provided aid and shelter to thousands of people displaced by the violence between the military and rebel fighters in northern Kachin state. 

On September 9, Myanmar military voluntarily withdrew the complaint “because it is what we should do,” said army spokesman Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun.

If convicted of defamation of the military in Myanmar, Pastor Samson could have faced years in a Myanmar prison.

Praying with the church in Myanmar

Myanmar is #18 on Open Doors’ World Watch List. In the Southeast Asian country, the army holds immense power and has intensified its fight against insurgent groups, as well as ethnic minorities (including Christians). More than 100,000 Christians live in IDP (internally displaced person) camps, deprived of access to food and health care.

Over the last year, Christians in the Southeast Asian country have seen their churches closed and burned as the Communist-inspired UWS Army detained and abducted believers. Anyone deviating from the Buddhist heritage is regarded as a potentially dangerous outsider.

Pray with persecuted Christian minorities in the predominantly Christian regions of Kachin State, Karen State, Shan State and in Northern Shan—that they would continue to build the church as they sense millions of Christians lifting them up.

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