MINTHANG EARLY YEARS PERSECUTION AND BIBLE COLLEGE
When Minthang was a 17 year old bible college student in 1985, he was almost imprisoned on three occasions and even faced the possibility of death.
Some mission work was a practical requirement at the Baptist Bible College that Minthang attended. He decided to do some on his own at the town of Phuentsholing on the Bhutanese side bordering the Indian town of Jaigaon in West Bengal. He booked into a Hotel in Pheuntsholing and proceeded to preach the gospel on the streets of the town. He wasn’t aware that it was illegal and it didn’t last when he found himself arrested.
The authorities collected him and deposited him roughly over the border and into Jaigaon. He said “what about my luggage,” they said “we don’t care about your luggage.” But there was a border guard there who saw how roughly Minthang had been handled. He said to them “don’t you have children, how would you like it if others treated them the same way? Go and get his luggage for him.” They went to the hotel collected it and threw his cases over the border telling him not to return.
Not knowing what to do, Minthang sought some help from a Christian pastor who told him he could stay with him. After a few weeks Minthang decided to go to Nepal and the other pastor tried to convince him not to do it due to similar dangers. Minthang said I don’t care about the danger I have to preach the gospel. So he travelled to Nepal.
Once again he did street preaching and some men from the crowd told him to stop or they would beat him. He continued and suffered a beating but after a while he resisted and they stopped beating him. They forced him to the police station and put him in prison. However those who accused Minthang weren’t aware that the Policeman in charge of the station was also a Christian. When the policeman questioned Minthang and found out that he was a Christian and was arrested for preaching the gospel, he was very angry and released Minthang. He also invited Minthang to stay with him. The men of who wanted Minthang arrested returned to the police station expecting to see the imprisonment of Minthang and what they faced was an angry policeman who said that they didn’t have to listen to the gospel if they didn’t want to so why did they have Minthang arrested? He told them if it ever happens again he would have them beaten.
He went to preach on the Myanmar Manipur border with a Burmese friend aged 25. He preached in four villages and someone reported him to the border police. They searched for him following him from each village however he had just left each one before they arrived. As he tried to cross back into Manipur they arrested him at the border. What followed is a testimony to the word of God that it cannot be stopped and bears evidence to the truth “… when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak…” (Mat 10:19)
For some reason there is a law in Myanmar that Indian nationals can’t be arrested before 6.00 p.m. He was arrested at 3.30 p.m. and he asked the officer why he had been arrested. The officer replied “for preaching the gospel.” Minthang asked him to show him the law that says you can’t preach the gospel. The arresting officer couldn’t do it. Minthang said through his Burmese friend, “if you can’t show me the law then why have you arrested me and that it is illegal for me to be arrested before 6.00 p.m. The Myanmar officer went into his office and lit a cigarette. Minthang wrote a note on a paper napkin saying that he had been arrested for being an Indian and gave it to his friend to take to the Indian Border Superintendent of Police on the Indian side of the shared border.
The Indian Superintendent sent two plain clothes officers to the Myanmar police station to see what had happened. They spoke to Minthang through the door and asked him what was going on and Minthang again confirmed that he had been arrested for being an Indian. They reported back to the Superintendent who wrote an official letter to the Myanmar Police asking why Minthang had been arrested.
In the meantime, the Myanmar officer came out of his office with a cane and told Minthang he was going to beat him for his disrespect and for preaching the gospel and said to him “do you treat your father with this same disrespect.” Minthang said: “I don’t care if you beat me for preaching the gospel and my father would never beat me for preaching the truth, but if you beat me, you will receive double in return.” The officer was very angry and at this point the two plain clothes officer came with the letter Indian Police Superintendent’s letter. The officer took it into his office and didn’t even read it tearing it up and throwing it into the bin and Minthang saw him do it. He told his Burmese friend to tell the Indian officers outside what had happened and they reported back to the Indian Superintendent who was very angry at such disrespect. He again sent the two officers to see Minthang asking him what he wanted him to do. Minthang replied since they have arrested me, why don’t you close the gate and arrest all the people from Myanmar and if they arrest me and take me to Yangon then take all of them to Delhi? The Indian Superintendent had the closed the gate.
At about 5.30 p.m. the police van arrived to take Minthang to Yangon. This was a very pressing situation. When the Myanmar officer came out and saw the gate shut, he collected his 30 men with light weapons and posted them in a line along the fence. The Indian Superintendent did the same with his 100 men holding automatic weapons. The two officers in charge argued through the fence and the Indian Superintendent said if you try to put Minthang in the van he will shoot holes in the van and kill those attempting to take him.
The Myanmar officer very reluctantly agreed to release Minthang if the gate was opened, but the Indian Superintendent said only when Minthang had passed through to Indian terriotory. The Myanmar officer was very angry and went in to get Minthang and when he saw him he made choking motions with his hands. By this stage the Press had turned up on both sides of the border observing what had happened. The number of people from Myanmar on the Indian side had gradually built up to more than 200 and some were mothers with nursing babies who had become very angry with the Myanmar officer. Eventually they brought Minthang to the gate opened it and let him through. He was the only one from Manipur and the people from Myanmar had to make way to let him pass through like Moses parting the Dead Sea. “One man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you, as He promised you.” Joshua 23:10. This story was reported in the national papers of both Myanmar and Manipur.
The Superintendent took Minthang into his office and asked him how old he was? He marvelled learning he was only 17. He asked Minthang who he was and what he was doing and Minthang replied that he was a Bible College student and the Superintendent then understood why he had been arrested. This didn’t alter his opinion of Minthang at all saying to him “you could have been jailed or even killed. Minthang said he was prepared to die for the gospel. Impressed the Superintendent gave him 200 rupees which in those days would buy perhaps three pair of good trousers.
Afterwards Minthang was invited by the Superintendent to visit him whenever he liked. Minthang had holidays there and the Super gave him many gifts. Later a Pastor from the Indian side of the Manipur border spoke to the Superintendent who became a committed Christian.
The three testimonies will produce different responses in people. For me it inspires me to stand up for the gospel and not to be a wimp, to trust God for his protection regardless of the circumstances and to watch for his salvation and rescue in difficult circumstances.