On October 27th, two assistant pastors arrested by the army in Burma (Myanmar) last December were sentenced to prison on false charges of unlawful association, defaming the military and spying. Pastor Dom Dawng Nawng Latt received a prison term of four years and three months, and Pastor Lang Jaw Gam Hseng was sentenced to a term of two years and three months.
The two ethnic Kachin pastors were charged under the Unlawful Association Act for alleged connections with an armed ethnic group, the Kachin Independence Organization, and apparently spying for it -- even though there was no evidence to support these claims. Pastor Dom received the additional two years under the defamation charge as he was accused of criticizing the army and speaking too frequently with members of the media.
According to credible sources, the two pastors were likely arrested and charged due to an event that happened in November of last year. During this period, both pastors had assisted local journalists who were reporting on army attacks in Shan state. These attacks caused considerable damages to a church building, as well as community schools and homes. The two pastors took the journalists to the St. Francis Xavier Church building which, at the time, had just been bombed by Burmese army jets.
The initial arrests of the pastors took place on December 24th of last year when they went to the Byuha Gone military base to negotiate the release of a civilian couple who were detained for complaining to army officials about the destruction of their house. Although suspects are supposed to be tried after no more than 28 days, the pastors were held for several months without a trial. More about their case, including information on Pastor Dom's health challenges, is available here.
Despite the nature of these charges, pray that both imprisoned pastors will remain loyal and true to their ministry calling. May these Christian leaders and their families continually "hope in the Lord" who will assuredly "renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). In the midst of this difficult situation, may these believers wholeheartedly cling to Him and firmly dedicate themselves to His greater cause -- recognizing this time as an opportunity to minister to others in prison as they await their hopeful release.