08/18/2019 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – The two ethnic Kachin pastors who testified at last month’s State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, might face arrest upon their return. For this, leaders of American Baptist Churches USA took action to voice their concern.
Lanjaw Gam Seng, spoke to reporters in details the harsh treatment he endured during his 16-month imprisonment, after assisting journalists document military attacks on civilian targets including the 2016 bombing of a Catholic Church in Kachin state.
Pastor Hkalam Samson, on the other hand, is president of the Kachin Baptist Convention. He has been vocal in criticizing the actions of Myanmar’s government and military, which have led to more than 100,000 Kachins being internally displaced from their homes since 2011 and the destruction of more than 200 churches. He also publicly voiced his support for the sanctions to be imposed on Myanmar military officials when he visited the White House.
Baptist News reports that American Baptist Churches USA General Secretary Lee Spitzer; Sharon Koh, executive director/CEO of International Ministries; and Jeffrey Haggray, executive director of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, sent letters on August 7 to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and to officials of the government of the United States.
“It has been reported to us and widely shared on Burmese social media that the military has ordered the arrest of both Dr. Samson and Pastor Gam Seng upon their arrival at the Yangon International Airport on Tuesday,” the Baptist leaders said. “We know that since their appearance on U.S, television there has been an increase in official rhetoric against ‘traitors against Myanmar’ within the country, and a mass rally was held against such traitors on Aug 3, 2019.”
“We believe that these two Christian leaders are in imminent danger and we call upon the United Nations, the U.S. government and other concerned powers, and human rights advocacy groups to add your voice to ours and speak strongly against any possible action against Pastor Gam Seng and Dr. Samson upon their return,” the letter said.
In response, Nicholas J.C. Snyder, a special adviser on East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific to Vice President Mike Pence said, “At this time, we have not seen evidence that they will actually be arrested on their arrival but we will continue to have the US Embassy check in with them.”