RANGOUN | A Canadian pastor who preached that the love of God protected Christians from the coronavirus was sentenced Thursday to three months in prison in Burma after being infected with dozens of worshipers during a religious ceremony that was prohibited.
Burma has so far remained relatively untouched by the epidemic. It officially lists 357 cases and six deaths, but many agree that the disease is actually much more widespread.
Born in Burma, Canadian David Lah, 43, returns regularly to his native country to preach there.
The Burmese authorities have banned gatherings since mid-March. But footage has been released showing Mr. Lah leading a religious ceremony in early April.
“If people carry the Bible and Jesus in their hearts, sickness will not reach them,” he can be heard telling the faithful in a crowded room, in the video made during the ceremony.
“The only person who can heal and spread peace during this pandemic is Jesus.”
He had tested positive shortly thereafter and his followers were linked to dozens of COVID-19 cases.
Released from quarantine, he was arrested at the end of May and risked up to three years in prison in Burma.
Mr. Lah and his colleague Wai Tun were sentenced to three months in prison on Thursday, his lawyer Aung Kyi Win told reporters.
Christianity is practiced by just over 6% of the Burmese population, the majority Buddhist.