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Pastor facing imprisonment for revealing horrors of religious persecution

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A Baptist minister from Myanmar who spoke with President Donald Trump about being “oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government” during a visit to the White House could be prosecuted for his comments.

Pastor Hkalam Samson, president of the Kachin Baptist Convention and a leading rights advocate for a predominantly Baptist ethnic group in northern Myanmar known as the Kachin, was part of a group of international religious leaders that recently met with the president to express concerns about religious freedom in their home countries.

“As Christians in Myanmar, we are oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government,” Samson said. “We don’t have chance, many, for religious freedom.”

During his 60-second speech, the pastor also thanked Trump for imposing sanctions on four top generals for their role in a campaign against ethnic Muslims and called on the U.S. government to focus on bringing “general democracy and federalism” to his country.

Now, Lt. Col. Than Htike, is seeking to prosecute Samson for his criticism of the country’s military, according to the New York Times. The colonel’s complaint accuses Samson of “knowingly giving false information” and notes that the minister’s remarks were posted on the Facebook page of ABC News, violating Myanmar’s “criminal defamation laws.”

A judge is expected to rule next week on whether the case can proceed. If found guilty, Samson could face several months or years in prison.

“There is no freedom of expression for Myanmar citizens wherever you are because you can get in trouble even when you talk about the truth in the White House,” Samson told the Times.

Over the last three years, the country’s military has filed dozens of defamation complaints against its critics, mainly over comments they posted on Facebook. All of the complaints have been brought by colonels.

Samson said the legal process was a big improvement over decades of military impunity in ethnic areas such as Kachin State, when critics of the military would simply vanish.

“If the military was not happy with what we said, they wouldn’t file a lawsuit,” he said. “They would take you anonymously and you would disappear anonymously.”

Samson rejected an offer to drop the suit if he apologized for his comments, stating, “I do not want to trade off the truth for my own individual escape.”

In July, Samson was in Washington for the U.S. State Department’s three-day Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom when he and about 20 other attendees were invited to the impromptu meeting with Trump.

“With us today are men and women of many different religious traditions from many different countries,” Trump said at the time. “But what you have in common is each of you has suffered tremendously for your faith. You’ve endured harassment, threats, attacks, trials, imprisonment and torture.”

Trump officials expressed concern that speaking about religious persecution in the Oval Office could open testifiers up to increased persecution in their homelands.

Samson is not the only attendee to receive backlash for his comments: Priya Saha, an organizing secretaries for the Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council in Bangladesh, was temporarily expelled for “anti-disciplinary activities” after she told Trump that 37 million people have disappeared from the Asian nation.

“Sir, I am from Bangladesh. Here is 37 million Hindu, Buddhist and Christian are disappeared,” Saha told Trump during the meeting. “Please help us, the Bangladeshi people. We want to stay in our country. Still, there is 18 million minority people. Please help us. We don’t want to leave our country.”

“I have lost my home, they burned my home and they have taken my land,” she continued. “But no judgment has yet taken place.”

The president followed up by asking Saha who took the land and the home.

“The Muslim fundamentalist group,” she responded. “Always, they are getting the political shelter. Always.”

A statement from the foreign ministry claimed that Saha’s comments were “blatant lies.” The government also accused Saha of having an “ulterior motive” and said that it expects the U.S. organizers of the ministerial to invite responsible individuals.

Persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA ranks Myanmar at No. 18 on its World Watch List of 50 countries where it’s most difficult to be a Christian. Bangladesh is ranked as No. 48.

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Irish Bishop Against Practicing Yoga in Christian Schools

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An Irish bishop has written to Catholic schools urging them to ban yoga as it is ‘not of Christian origin’ and the children should spend their time ‘in adoration of Jesus’ instead.

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan, wrote to principals, teachers and school staff members in Waterford City and County, Ireland, on October 10.

In his letter, he said: ‘Yoga is not of Christian origin and is not suitable for our parish school setting and especially not during religious education time.

‘I have been asked by several people to say a word on yoga and mindfulness. My question is, ‘Will they bring us closer to God or replace him?’

The bishop claimed that Christian Mindfulness is ‘meditation on Christ’ which empties the mind of ‘everything unnecessary’ in order to become ‘aware of the presence and love of Christ’.

While he also quoted Pope Francis that practices like yoga are ‘not capable of opening our hearts up to God’.

The bishop added how people can ‘take a million courses in spirituality’ but this activity ‘will never be able to give you freedom’, echoing Pope Francis’s speech in 2015.

He said Pope Francis’s philosophy was in keeping with Ireland’s Grow In Love programme. This touches on Christian doctrine, Scripture, morality and prayer.

Teacher’s were reminded that October is the ‘month of the Rosary’ and they should each pray in a bid to get closer to Jesus, in the letter.

But the primary school curriculum allows a degree of flexibility about how its implemented, according to the Irish National Teachers Organisation, who hit-back at his view.

John Stokes, a yoga instructor in Waterford, said the practice of yoga, meditation and mindfulness should be ’embraced’ in ‘an age where children are really suffering from anxiety and stress’.

‘There is no dogma taught in our classes and Yoga in it’s truest sense is a movement and breath awareness practice for health and wellbeing.

They said ‘here’s to tolerance, love and unity’ and invited him to a one-to-one yoga session or class of his choice’ at their Wellness Centre in Youghal, Ireland.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation said the primary school curriculum allows schools a certain amount of flexibility and autonomy with regard to its implementation.

They said the schools ‘are best placed’ to make the decisions about how the subjects are taught, taking into consideration the ‘school culture, ethos and needs of the pupils’.

This is not the first time Bishop Cullinan has received backlash for his views as he said he was to establish a ‘delivery ministry’ group to rid people of the devil through exorcism, last year.

He also claimed the cervical cancer vaccine could lead to promiscuity in 2017.

The bishop said the vaccine ‘lulls girls into false sense of security’ and encourages sexual activity, adding: ‘Prevention, the number one and most effective protection, is abstinence. A good old traditional value.’

He later apologised and admitted he was not fully informed about the vaccination programme. Cullinan’s ‘intention was solely motivated to protect people from HPV’.

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China Demolishes 3,000-Seat Megachurch during Worship Service

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The People’s Republic of China destroyed a church that reportedly could seat 3,000 people and detained its pastors, according to a human rights organization.

An international nonprofit Christian human rights group based in Texas, reported the incident in a statement released Saturday. According to the group, Chinese authorities provided no legal papers to justify the demolition.

The church was located in Funan, Anhui province. Its pastors, Geng Yimin and Sun Yongyao, were detained under suspicion of “gathering a crowd to disturb social order.”

China Aid President Bob Fu said in a statement that the incident was “yet another clear example showing the escalation of religious persecution today by the Chinese Communist regime.”

“The total disregard of religious freedom’s protection as enshrined in the Communist Party’s own Constitution tells the whole world President Xi is determined to continue his war against the peaceful Christian faithful. This campaign will surely fail in the end.”

While China’s persecution of religious groups has existed for many years, recently under President Xi Jinping a wave of crackdowns on religious practices in China has taken place.

The Communist government has destroyed or damaged several churches, reflecting concerns about the increasing Christian population of the country.

In the summer, True Jesus Church in Henan province was razed to the ground, according to persecution watchdog Bitter Winter. Police officers reportedly dragged out all believers from the church before they demolished the property.

Bitter Winter also reported last month that the Ten Commandments have been removed from nearly every Three-Self church and meeting venue in a county of Luoyang city and replaced with the President Xi Jinping’s quotes as part of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to “sinicize” Christianity.

In addition to cracking down on its Christian minority, China has engaged in violent persecution of its Uighur Muslim and Falun Gong communities.

The China Tribunal, a human rights group, told the United Nations Human Rights Council last month that the Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious minorities, with possibly hundreds of thousands of victims.

“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, and that it continues today. This involves hundreds of thousands of victims.”

“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century.”

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