No Verdict Still for the Bhutanese Pastors
Tandin Wangyal and Thapa “David” Lobzang continue to wait for the court’s summons and verdict on their case. A local source told Open Doors that the two pastors are likely to be acquitted and the charges dropped. “They could be delaying the case as a form of harassment on the two pastors and their families,” the source says.
In Open Doors Weekly Prayer Alert, dated July 22, we shared that Tandin and Thapa were charged on March 5 with conducting an unauthorized gathering for religious purposes without prior approval. They had been invited to the area to hold a three-day seminar for 30 local Christians. As they were transporting a sick child to a clinic in Khabdaney village, however, the two were arrested. The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in capital city Thimphu charged them with conducting a gathering for religious purpose without prior approval, showing a film without certificate of approval from the concerned media authorities, and collecting “illegal funds.” The police officials said they found no proof the pastors had forced believers to convert to Christianity, eliminating the possibility of charges of evangelizing.
The charges were reportedly dropped at the end of May, but later, prosecutors found new evidence to consider. Rebuttals were submitted, and they are still awaiting the verdict. It has been a trying time of waiting. “We’ve been waiting for the court to summon us,” said Tandin. “It’s mentally draining. It’s like there’s this axe just hanging above my neck, ready to swing anytime,” he added. “My family and I are very grateful for your prayer support. We continue to rely on you and your prayers during this time.”
In the July 22 Weekly Prayer Alert, you were invited to write letters to these two pastors. They thank you for the outpouring of encouragement and the hundreds of cards they have received. “I have never received this many cards in my life,” says Tandin. “My wife and I opened the cards one by one after the kids went to bed. It’s heartwarming to know that people have not forgotten us. I never knew that so many people have been praying!”
“Our joy knows no bounds,” he adds. “These cards have encouraged us to move on with our life in the faith… I don’t know how to thank you, but one thing I know-God will bless you. May Jesus be praised!”
An international petition campaign was also launched in April for the acquittal of the two Bhutanese pastors. At least 700 emails reached the Attorney General and more than 30 messages were posted on the Facebook page of The King of Bhutan, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.
Bhutan is in the 31st position in the 2014 World Watch List (WWL), which is Open Doors’ annual ranking of countries where Christianity is hardest to live out. WWL research indicates that 2.5 percent of Bhutan’s population (of 774,000) are Christians. They live with the daily pressures of being monitored and being forced to recant their faith if discovered in this predominantly Buddhist country. Pastors in Bhutan hold their church worship secretly.
Thank You, Father, for the community of believers around the world, our own brothers and sisters in Christ, and for the technology that allows us to encourage and pray for those who are suffering in many places, including the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan sandwiched between India and China. Today, we lift up Tandin and Thapa as they await the verdict from the court. We pray that Your peace will overwhelm them with the assurance of Your presence. We pray for their acquittal; that justice may be served. We pray for their families. Thank You for the flood of letters sent to encourage them, and we pray that whatever happens, they will be convinced of Your presence with them and of our prayers on their behalf. And in all of these circumstances, we pray for the gospel to go forth in power and authority; that the Kingdom of Bhutan might one day become part of the Kingdom of Christ. In the name of Jesus, who is gathering His Church from all the nations, Amen.