Myanmar junta arrests prominent Baptist leader

Article Source: UCA News

A prominent Kachin Baptist leader has been arrested by Myanmar’s military junta while attempting to leave the country for Bangkok, Thailand for a medical examination.

Reverend Hkalam Samson, former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), was briefly detained for questioning at Mandalay International Airport on Dec. 4 and released on Dec. 5 after he was banned from leaving the country, according to local media reports citing sources monitoring the Baptist leader’s arrest.

Sources said he was rearrested in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state, on Dec. 5 after he took a flight home from Mandalay.

The KBC has called on authorities to immediately Rev Samson from “unreasonable detention.”

“We fear for his safety and life while being unlawfully detained”

“We, the KBC and members of the community are deeply concerned about the arrest of Samson,” KBC leaders said in a Dec. 5 statement.

Other groups also called for the Christian leader’s release.

“We join our voices with those demanding his release and consider Dr. Samson to be in grave danger of torture,” said the Burma Advocacy group of American Baptist Churches in the US.

“We fear for his safety and life while being unlawfully detained. This is the most recent in a string of attacks directed against the people of Kachin state by the military junta,” the group said.

The reason for the arrest of the Kachin Baptist leader remains unclear.

In August 2019, he was sued by the military for alleging at a July meeting with the then-US president, Donald Trump, that Myanmar’s military oppresses minority Christians.

He was among 27 people from 17 countries alleged to be victims of religious persecution invited to meet Trump.

“Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced”

“As Christians in Myanmar, we are being oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government,” Rev. Samson told Trump during the televised meeting.

Rev Samson is currently working as an advisor to the KBC after serving for a decade as president and general secretary of the organization.

He is also the chairman of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, a group of religious leaders, politicians from Kachin parties and members from the Kachin Independence Organization — the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army.

The detained Baptist leader has reportedly supervised the funerals of at least 63 people killed in an airstrike by the junta in Hpakant township on Oct. 22 — one of the worst attacks in Kachin state since the military coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

Christian-majority regions such as Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin states have witnessed fierce fighting between the military and rebels. Hundreds have been killed and thousands displaced due to the violence. The military has attacked and destroyed churches, church-run institutes and civilian organizations.

Christians have borne the brunt of the decades-old civil war and often face arbitrary arrests, killings, torture and rape at the hands of the military, which has ruled the country for more than five decades.

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