Bhutanese Pastors Found Guilty
Recently, you were asked to pray for Tandin Wangyal and Mon Thapa, two Bhutanese pastors who were facing charges after holding a Christian conference in a house church in Dorokha. On Sept. 10, they were both found guilty by Dorokha Court’s presiding judge.
Thapa (also known as David) was sentenced to two years and four months in prison. However, in an unexpected turn of events, he was released on Sept. 12, after he paid the court’s fine of 98,800 Ngultrum (around $2,000) in exchange for jail time.
Tandin was sentenced to three years and eleven months in prison without bail on charges of soliciting funds from the public for personal gain. But on Sep. 15, Pastor Tandin Wangyal was granted a one-year bail after spending four nights at the Samtse Central Jail. He paid $750 for the bail.
“This doesn’t mean that he will be free for one year,” said a local source, unnamed for security reasons. “It only means that he would be able to attend court hearings while his appeal for reconsideration will be heard by a different court, the Samtse higher court. It is hard to say how long the hearings will go on.”
Tandin was convicted on Sep. 10 with two charges. First was for showing a film without official permit as required under Sections 105 and 110 of Bhutan’s Media Act of 2007. For this, the convicted pastor has been sentenced to eight months of prison term. The second charge was collecting funds from a foreign agency between 2012 to Mar 2014 – a felony that carries a penalty of three years and three months. It is a non-bailable offense.
During his four nights at the Samtse Central Jail, Tandin described experiencing intimacy with God that he had not experienced before. “He became closer to God, as he spent most of his time in prayer,” the source told Open Doors. “On Sep. 15, at 3 am, while praying he had a vision; in it he saw an angel leading him by the hand. The door of the prison cell suddenly opened and he walked out. That same afternoon, the vision came true; at 3:45 pm, he was released!”
“Thank you for all your prayer support,” Tandin said in an text message as soon as he left prison. “I am speechless and have no words to thank my ‘Jesus’. Only He knows what I went through those four nights in Samtse Central Jail. If it was not for His grace and peace, I probably would have collapsed.”
Tandin will be free on bail while the high court in Samtse reviews his appeal. The judge assigned to his case is Birkha Bahdur Tamang, who is of Nepali descent and known for his liberal views. With Birkha presiding, the pastor hopes for a fair trial. There are three possible outcomes: the court could still find Tandin guilty and order him to continue to serve his four-year sentence, the court could drag the case on to harass him and his family, or the court could reverse the guilty verdict. A former court registrar, who is a Christian, is helping the pastor prepare his appeal.
“Please continue to pray for Tandin,” said Open Doors’ source. “He appeared weak; he was nursing a viral fever and had an upset stomach due to the water that he drank while in Samtse jail. Pray also as he finalizes the appeal letter with the help of the former court registrar.”
Consider writing a letter to Tandin and David to encourage them and let them know that you are praying for them. Click here for writing guidelines.
Father, as we celebrate Pastor Thapa’s (David’s) and Pastor Tandin’s release, we praise You for providing funds to pay the fines. As they return home, give them wisdom and courage as they seek ways to resume doing Your work while avoiding further arrest. But Father, as pleased as we are with this outcome, our brother Tandin is still facing charges that could ultimately send him back to prison. Lord, grant him favor with the courts; that the charges brought against him will be dropped. Tandin said earlier, that this time of uncertainty, while awaiting the outcome of the court’s decision, is so unsettling. Father, fill him with Your peace; provide him with wise counsel, and give him courage to face the outcome. God, during this time of waiting, may all of his words and actions bring honor and glory to Your name. In the name of Jesus, who is present in even our darkest moments, Amen.