Pastor sentenced to 3 yrs in prison

The High Court sentenced Gospel for Asia-supported missionary Ugyen Tashi to three years in prison for “attempting to promote civil unrest” for showing a film about Jesus Assist News Service (ANS), reported.

On May 21st, carrying a generator and a projector, Ugyen walked for two days into interior villages of Bhutan with a single purpose—to give people a chance to learn about Jesus.

But when one of the village chiefs learned of the movie’s content, he informed the chief of his district, who then called the police to arrest Ugyen, the report added.

Below texts are exact excerpts from ANS report – Ed

Investigations and Questionings
The days following the arrest were a whirlwind of investigations, questionings, postponements, police statements and waiting.

While police investigated his case, Pastor Ugyen was kept in a small, dark, mosquito-filled room along with three other inmates.

On June 14, the police attempted to search Pastor Ugyen’s house, but they were unable to enter because the house was locked.

In need of more information, the police sent a team to the villages where Ugyen showed the Jesus film to reinvestigate and conclude whether people were converted through the screening.

The police summoned the village chiefs and others present at the showing and asked them a series of questions concerning what happened the night of Ugyen’s arrest. Both Christians and non-Christians presented statements for Ugyen’s case.

Patiently waiting and sharing
Ugyen’s case eventually made its way to the district court as he patiently waited in his jail cell and continued to share the Good News with his fellow inmates, all the while enduring harsh living conditions, which aggravated his asthma.

“Pastor Ugyen said he is not sitting idle, and though he is not able to share openly, he is making the best of every opportunity he is getting to share the Good News of Jesus,” a GFA field correspondent reported. “There are a few inmates who are interested.”

When GFA leaders came to visit the prison, Ugyen asked for a supply of New Testaments to distribute to the inmates and encouraged his visitors not to worry about him.

The court process
On July 22, two months after Ugyen’s arrest, he was taken to court for the first phase of his hearing—after multiple postponements and cancellations.

GFA leaders had initially met with local officials to appeal for Ugyen’s release on bail, but the officials refused their petition because they considered Ugyen’s case very serious and a possible violation of Bhutan’s constitution, which states that “No person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.”

Ugyen was asked to write a statement for the court, but his first statement was considered insufficient. Nine times Ugyen rewrote his statement, paying $2.50 each time.

On August 17, the court presented all of Ugyen’s statements in the presence of the officials and asked Ugyen to screen the controversial film on the life of Jesus before the court the following day. Although it was reported that the court officials wanted to watch all the films Ugyen had shown before a final verdict was pronounced, the film was never shown.

Bhutan’s High Court declared Ugyen guilty and gave him three years in prison.

Bhutan and Religion
Bhutan is one of the least evangelized nations, according to Operation World. This is due in part to the country’s deliberate isolation from other cultures. The government and its people seek to protect their ancient traditions, their way of life and especially their religion.

Bhutan’s constitution states that “Buddhism is the spiritual heritage of Bhutan, which promotes the principles and values of peace, non-violence, compassion and tolerance,” yet Christians have often been persecuted for their faith even though their constitutional right grants them freedom of religion as long as they weren’t compelled by coercion to convert to Christianity.

Please pray for Pastor Ugyen while he is in prison. Pray for his health, and that he will be able to effectively minister while he’s behind bars. Pray also for the other believers living in Bhutan. Pray for their protection, strength to endure persecution, and discernment on how to share the Good News with those around them.

6 Comments

  1. Bhutan can never be an open society in next thousand years. It is rediculous you put somebody behind bars for screening a religious film. You should rather ban pornographic films in the stores of Thimphu. The GNH is exposed thoroughly, how can you claim GNH if you have no tolerance towards people’s faith and punish them. Bhutan rulers are no better than Talibans or Iranian regime who are so bent on persecuting people on grounds of religion and faiths. The constituion is just a show piece when regime goes on violating people’s fundamental rights of religion. The High Court should have protected his fundamental rights but instead it violated his rights. This proves the judiciary is not independent since it has failed to stand by people. We all must oppose all such acts of violations of people’s constitutional rights.

  2. The first question is: this story seems to be about a misguided man from southern Bhutan, Prem Singh Gurung who was convicted in October in Gelephu…how did he suddenly become Ugen Tashi?
    Secondly, the conviction was for violation of 2 important laws of Bhutan.
    Firstly, as would be the case in every country in the world, he wanted to show films to a public gathering, without getting them cleared with the Bhutan Information, Comunications and Media Authority (BICMA), which certifies movies for public viewing. This is the norm for every civilised country, I’m sure.
    Prem Singh aka Ugen (?) did not do that.
    Secondly, because of the nefarious activities of so-called Christians and the resultant outbreak of misunderstanding and possible outbreak of communal harmonay, in keeping with the requirements, there is strict laws against proselytisation, which he violated.
    Please note that the laws are not against religious freedom nor is it against freedom of expression. There is complete freedom on both counts.
    If you want to watch any film in the privacuy of your home, or you want to show a film to a gethering of your frineds, fine…you are free to go ahead. But if you want to show a film to any groups of the public, obviously, you will have to meet certain criteria and fulfill certain regulations….again, I’m sure no country in the world will allow anybody to just walk into a commuity and start showing any film to the public…obviously not!
    Secondly, there’s complete freedom in Bhutan to worshi any god or religion…but the moment you want to disturb the peace and privacy of others around you, obviously you are doing something which is infringing onthe rights of others to be left alone.
    You don’t need to be human rights expert to see the difference.
    So no matter how enemies of BHutan want to twist and misrepresent facts, they just don’t fly!
    But please enlighten us as to how this latest stroy about “Pastor Ugyen” came about. Please quote your sources.

  3. Mr. Nar Bahadur,

    Govt. of Bhutan should study what is the right to religion! What has RGOB read through before signing the membership of UNO?

    If the nation doesnot respect the freedom of rights to religion of it’s citizens, then it needs to understand that it is a threat to democracy in the country.

    No country with the modern democracy in the world allows the followers of only one religion to practise their religious rights.

  4. All of the human rights and other struggles around the world are NOT about the right to violate the laws. They are about CHANGING the unjust laws. There is a huge difference between what is legal and what is just. Our struggle is not about legality. It is about justice – just laws implemented fairly, equally, humanely through transparent hearings/trials. Mr Rai might want to brush up a little on the concept of Justice and of jurisprudence.

  5. Actually people in southan dzongkha stop celebrating dawali,dassiin and old tradational puja because of most of innoncent farmer are converted to christain .

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