Pastor Released after Eight Years
September 25, 2013
Pastor *Ugyen walked out of prison on May 21 after serving three years for showing a film on the life of Jesus. The South Asian pastor was met by his wife, daughter, brother and two other pastors.
"Thank God for all His grace and mercy bestowed upon me for the last three years," he said.
Pastor Sentenced to Three Years in Prison
first published December 9, 2010
The High Court sentenced Gospel for Asia-supported missionary Ugyen Tashi to three years in prison for "attempting to promote civil unrest" for showing a film about Jesus.
On May 21st, carrying a generator and a projector, Ugyen walked for two days into interior villages with a single purpose�"to give people a chance to learn about Jesus.
But when one of the village chiefs learned of the movie's content, he informed the chief of his district, who then called the police to arrest Ugyen.
Investigations and Questionings
The days following the arrest were a whirlwind of investigations, questionings, postponements, police statements and waiting.
While police investigated his case, Pastor Ugyen was kept in a small, dark, mosquito-filled room along with three other inmates.
On June 14, the police attempted to search Pastor Ugyen's house, but they were unable to enter because the house was locked.
In need of more information, the police sent a team to the villages where Ugyen showed the Jesus film to reinvestigate and conclude whether people were converted through the screening.
The police summoned the village chiefs and others present at the showing and asked them a series of questions concerning what happened the night of Ugyen's arrest. Both Christians and non-Christians presented statements for Ugyen's case.
Patiently Waiting and Sharing
Ugyen's case eventually made its way to the district court as he patiently waited in his jail cell and continued to share the Good News with his fellow inmates, all the while enduring harsh living conditions, which aggravated his asthma.
"Pastor Ugyen said he is not sitting idle, and though he is not able to share openly, he is making the best of every opportunity he is getting to share the Good News of Jesus," a GFA field correspondent reported. "There are a few inmates who are interested."
When GFA leaders came to visit the prison, Ugyen asked for a supply of New Testaments to distribute to the inmates and encouraged his visitors not to worry about him.
The Court Process
On July 22, two months after Ugyen's arrest, he was taken to court for the first phase of his hearing�"after multiple postponements and cancellations.
GFA leaders had initially met with local officials to appeal for Ugyen's release on bail, but the officials refused their petition because they considered Ugyen's case very serious and a possible violation of the constitution, which states that "No person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement."
Ugyen was asked to write a statement for the court, but his first statement was considered insufficient. Nine times Ugyen rewrote his statement, paying $2.50 each time.
On August 17, the court presented all of Ugyen's statements in the presence of the officials and asked Ugyen to screen the controversial film on the life of Jesus before the court the following day. Although it was reported that the court officials wanted to watch all the films Ugyen had shown before a final verdict was pronounced, the film was never shown.
The High Court declared Ugyen guilty and gave him three years in prison.
Please pray for Pastor Ugyen while he is in prison. Pray for his health, and that he will be able to effectively minister while he's behind bars. Pray also for the other believers living in this area. Pray for their protection, strength to endure persecution, and discernment on how to share the Good News with those around them.
Pastor Ugyen's Timeline
- May 21, 2010
Ugyen is arrested by police for showing the Jesus film. Film equipment confiscated.
- Juen 06, 2010
The police summon the village chief and people who saw the film to give detailed information. Police give Ugyen's case to Divisional Magistrate, who forwards the case to the District Magistrate for further investigation.
- June 09, 2010
Case forwarded to the district court. Ugyen awaits his first hearing.
- June 14, 2010
Police try to investigate Ugyen's house but can't enter because the door is locked.
- June 15, 2010
Police go to villages where film was shown to reinvestigate.
- July 05, 2010
GFA leaders meet with officials to appeal for Ugyen's release on bail. The petition is refused because of the gravity of the case.
- July 22, 2010
First phase of hearing scheduled for July 23 postponed until July 26.
- Aug. 04, 2010
Ugyen asked to write a statement. The statement is invalid, and he is asked to write another one.
- Aug. 06, 2010
Ugyen has written nine statements thus far. He is questioned as to why he shared the Good News. Next court date set for Aug. 9.
- Aug. 09, 2010
Ugyen's court date rescheduled for Aug. 17.
- Aug. 17, 2010
Pastor Ugyen taken to court and his statements are read before the court officials. Asked to appear before the court again on Aug. 18 to screen the Jesus film.
- Aug. 19, 2010
Pastor Ugyen asked to appear on Aug. 20 instead.
- Aug. 23, 2010
The district court forwards all of Pastor Ugyen's statements and a report from the police and district court to the High Court for verification. Screening of Jesus film never takes place.
- Sept. 08, 2010
District court takes over case again. Court officials suggest Ugyen write an apology to the judge of the district court.
- Oct. 07, 2010
High Court sentences Ugyen to three years in prison.
*Name has been changed for security purposes.