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A Polish-Canadian pastor who was arrested and jailed for holding church services in defiance of Alberta’s Public Health Act alleged that provincial health officials and law enforcement apply a different standard to Muslims who violate lockdown orders.
Pastor Artur Pawlowski, who made international headlines when he was arrested in the middle of a busy highway on his way home from church, told The Christian Post (CP) that authorities pick on Christians because they know they will not fight back.
Pawlowski, who went viral for videos that showed him forcefully ejecting police from his church, claims authorities started harassing him almost as soon as the pandemic started. They ordered him in March 2020 to shut his church and stop caring for the poor, but he refused, “concluding that by issuing ‘orders to stop feeding them [and] giving them necessities of life, they were sentencing them to death. [And] some of them did die,’” according to CP.
When health ministers refused his request for an exemption to their mandates, Pawlowski said he was issued a fine and threatened with arrest and more fines up to $1 million. He drew police attention, particularly when he invited members of the community to a Christmas celebration after authorities effectively canceled the holiday last year. Officers recorded him at the event, he said, after which they began to go after him at his church.
Pawlowski noted, however, that Albertan authorities do not seem as zealous to shut down Islamic events.
As CP further reported:
Pawlowski asserted that as law enforcement repeatedly descended on his church services, “the mosques were fully operational.” He asserted that “no one harassed them, no one interfered with them.”
“Not one imam was being harassed or intimidated. And to this day, there’s not one Imam or one Muslim that has a ticket, even though we have video evidence and pictures [of] them gathering even recently through the whole Ramadan by the thousands,” he added. Pawlowski’s YouTube channel includes a video of a gathering of thousands of Muslims that took place on the last day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar.
Pawlowski estimated that “about 2,000 people, maybe more, were there.” He painted a picture of the event for CP, saying, “As he [an Imam] is speaking, people are chanting, many do not wear masks, there is no physical distancing.”
The pastor singled out Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, Canada’s equivalent of a state governor, for criticism. He cited a video Kenney posted on his Facebook page on the same day that the Ramadan service took place, where he thanked the Muslim community “for the care that you’re showing to others in keeping gatherings smaller and outdoors and following the public health measures.” Pawlowski called the premise of that video “a lie,” adding, “we know they are not upholding the rules and regulations.”
Pawlowski attributes the disparate treatment of religious gatherings among the two religions to fear: “If they did that to an Imam, Muslims in the mosques, their heads would be chopped off.”
Pawlowski went on to say that even though he has criticized authorities in blunt, harsh ways, he has forgiven them.
“I have forgiven those villains, I have chosen to say what Jesus said, ‘Forgive them, they know not what they do,’” he said, adding that he hopes “those people that raised their hands against God and God’s church will repent and … receive the peace and the joy that I have no matter what [the] circumstances are.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Thursday urged the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to consider adding Canada to its watch list because of how it has treated pastors. Other Canadian pastors who were placed in maximum-security prison include James Coates, who was imprisoned for more than a month, and Tim Stephens, who awaits his June 28 trial in prison after being arrested when a police helicopter found his church gathering outside.