By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI/THIMPHU (BosNewsLife)– Police in Bhutan attempted to arrest two more Christians Friday, November 12, for involvement in showing a film about Jesus, shortly after another believer was jailed for similar activities, Christians said.
The two Christians were not found and were still in hiding, said advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC), which closely monitors the case.
Last month a court in Bhutan already sentenced a Christian to three years imprisonment for “attempting to promote civil unrest” by showing films about Christianity, underscoring international concerns about the situation of religious minorities in the heavily Buddhist Himalayan nation.
Prem Singh Gurung, a 40-year-old ethnic Nepalese citizen living in southern Bhutan, was detained four months ago while showing Christian films in the Gonggaon and Simkharka villages, local Christians said.
The two villages do not have electricity and it is believed that Gurung carried a projector and generator into the areas to show the films.
A court in Gelephu, a border town near India, reportedly said Gurung had violated Sections 105(1) and 110 of the Bhutan Information, Communication and Media Act, requiring authorities to screen all films before public presentation.
ICC said it had written a letter to the representatives of Bhutan at the United Nations protesting the sentencing of Gurung. The group said Gurung has the right, under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to express his religious beliefs, “including the right to receive and impart information and ideas through any media.”
Bhutanese officials have reportedly defended the sentencing, saying that although they respect the freedom of religion, “no person shall be compelled to belong to another faith by means of coercion or inducement.”
However ICC said the officials, “haven’t demonstrated any evidence of forceful conversion by Gurung.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, Jonathan Racho, told BosNewsLife that his group condemns “the Bhutanese government for imprisoning Mr. Gurung for three years for showing the film and hunting down two more Christians for participating in showing the film.”
He said ICC has urged authorities to uphold international human rights law “by releasing Gurung and not imprisoning the other two Christians.”
The group said it has urged its supporters to contact officials of Bhutan in their countries ” and politely ask them to release Gurung.”
Christians officially comprise less than one percent of the country’s population of roughly 700,000 people, according to several estimates.