Canadian pastor who held service in Yangon contracts COVID-19 and is arrested

Canadian David Lah, 43, was taken into custody yesterday for violating the lockdown. The Myanmar-born clergyman held a prayer meeting on 7 April. Scores of people were infected with the coronavirus. Lah, who is awaiting trial, faces up to three years in prison. Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio, a Christian, was also present at the event.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar authorities yesterday arrested a Myanmar-born Canadian pastor for holding a religious service in defiance of restrictions on large public gatherings due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Scores of people present at the service, including the Protestant clergyman, contracted COVID-19 as a result of coming into contact with each other on this occasion.

On 7 April in Mayangone, a township in northern ​​Yangon, Pastor David Lah, 43, held a prayer for his congregation.

In a video, he is seen saying that the Christian faith would protect those present from the virus. Later, Lah and some eighty members of his congregation tested positive for the disease.

Something similar occurred in South Korea, where most of the first infections occurred among members of the Shincheonji Christian sect.

Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country where Christians represent 6 per cent of the population, has reported so far 199 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and six deaths, but the figures are likely underestimated.

According to experts, if the disease spreads, it would have disastrous effects and lead to a health catastrophe. It is the “Way of the Cross of humanity” and “a challenge for faith", which Card Charles Bo blames on the Chinese Communist Party.

After spending two weeks in quarantine at the City Hotel Yangon, Lah came before the Mayangone Township Court where he was charged along with three others under the Natural Disaster and Management Law, which carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison.

The clergyman was remanded in prison until 3 June. His trial is expected to follow. Agence France-Presse quoted a police officer, who declined to be named, as saying that Lah’s arrest “was delayed because he was recovering from the disease.”

Three other Christians – priest Saw Kwe Wah, Saw Regeandy and Wai Tun – have also been charged. All are all recuperating from infection and have yet to face the court.

Following the prayer meeting, Myanmar authorities tested anyone who had close contact with the pastor on 7 April, including Myanmar Vice President Henry Van Thio, who is a Christian.