Bhutanese pastor Tandin Wangyal presented his 25-minute defense against the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) before the Samtse Court on October 20, 2014. He is accused of violating Section 105 of the Bhutan’s Communications, Information, and Media Act of 2006 (presenting a film to the public without permission), and Section 70 of the Civil Society Organizations Act (illegally soliciting public funds).
“Most honorable judge, our supreme Scripture, the Bible, clearly says in 1 Timothy 2:2 that we are to pray for our rulers, kings and authorities,” said Tandin. “Every Christian in Bhutan, regardless of social background, upholds you in prayer.”
“We are not against our king, country, or people. Our Scripture says in Romans 13:1 that we are to submit under the given authority,” he continued. “Bhutanese Christians abide by this. Your most honorable judge, I am ready to lay down my life for this nation.”
The OAG gave a rebuttal to his defense on October 27.
In response to the charge under Section 105, Tandin countered that he did not present a movie in the gathering, but a music video of the song “Above All” to usher the people to worship.
The OAG asserted, however, that they have found a schedule in Tandin’s hard disk revealing his plans to show three Christian movies in the days to follow. They say the attempt to show these films without permission is punishable by the Penal Code of Bhutan.
As for the funds he allegedly solicited from the public, Tandin explained that the money in question was not an unauthorized solicitation from the locals, but rather a gift given in confidence by a good friend whose name translates to “public” in Dzongkha. The OAG refrained from further comment on this and decided to leave it to the court.
For further clarification, the judge asked Tandin to produce documents proving that the activities he was facilitating are registered. To this, Tandin responded that no church in Bhutan has ever been granted legal status. “There were a couple of times when some Christian leaders tried to register, but nothing concrete has been achieved,” said Tandin. “Recently, some leaders submitted registration documents to the Prime Minister. It was relayed to the Home Minister but no concrete decision has been made, so I will not be able to produce these documents in court.”
Tandin’s final hearing was scheduled for this past Thursday, November 6. It was his last chance to deliver his written rebuttal and oral argument before the judge. Tandin was to speak in the morning, while the Evidence Hearing was to be led by the prosecution in the afternoon.
The court will decide the verdict by this Sunday, November 16.
Father, thank You for Tandin’s bold preaching of Your gospel to the people of his community in Bhutan. We thank You for the preparation of Tandin and his lawyer for last Thursday’s hearing. We pray that the court will be reminded of all the important information as it deliberates. We pray now for the weaknesses in the charges against Tandin to be evident, and for the judge’s good favor and mercy to be upon him as the verdict is determined. In the name of Jesus, who holds Tandin, and all of us, firmly in His faithful preserving power, Amen.