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COVID-19 and Myanmar Christians by Rev. Khawl Ro Kima (June 2020 Banner)
Posted on Jun 4, 2020
A famous, but controversial, evangelist in Myanmar, claimed that those who are really centered on Jesus cannot be infected by COVID-19 and then contracted it himself from a worship service he was leading. He was also arrested by authorities for allegedly holding worship services despite a restriction on mass gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus. About 20 people who participated at the service subsequently tested positive and at least 71 infections in Yangon have been linked to that worship service. The evangelist was quarantined for 21 days after being discharged from the hospital. On Wednesday, May 20, he made his first court appearance, where he heard the charges filed against him. Following his court appearance, the judge told journalists that he would remain in jail while authorities investigate his case. This evangelist has made no public comments since the charges were officially made against him. He is due in court again June 3. If found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison, a fine, or both.
This situation confuses the issue of persecution against Christians in Myanmar. The evangelist’s critics, which include some Christians, say that he was not arrested for preaching Christ, but for breaking the rule– holding religious services illegally amid the global pandemic. Others who sympathize with him say that he did not blatantly defy Myanmar’s assembly restrictions. These sympathizers claim that he was holding online services when some overly excited followers came to the location where he was livestreaming. One of those who arrived had the coronavirus and many people were infected after the event. There are still others who see this case as representing an example of the persecution against Christians in Myanmar. These people feel that the church is being singled out by authorities in Myanmar because there are many others who have violated the ban, but none of them is facing charges against them.
From this situation, we can clearly see the fallacy and danger of the prosperity gospel. Unfortunately, the prosperity gospel has greatly influenced the Christians in Myanmar. My desire and expectation from this man’s experience is that many will realize the fallacy and danger of this kind of teaching. I also am praying for him—that he will recant his teaching and from now on preach only the true gospel of Christ.
Sadly, the virus has infected more Christians, who comprise only 6 percent of the whole population, when compared to other religious groups. Of all cases reported nationwide, at least one third of them are Christians. This situation is creating new instances of persecution and is increasing the severity of longstanding persecution. Because of this man’s teaching and actions, many Christians in Myanmar face criticism and have sensed increased hostility. In response, Christian leaders have appealed to the Christians to work together to fight COVID-19 in unity and love as anti-Christian sentiment surges on social media. They also urged Christians not to post and share fake news, photos and videos on Facebook that may be offensive to other religions.
Please remember to pray for the Christians in Myanmar. Christians are misunderstood and are often treated unjustly. The Christian faith has been challenged as false. Even the God we worship is misrepresented as weak and unloving because Christians are being infected more than other groups. Please pray for Myanmar.