A Canadian minister who was briefly imprisoned for conducting church services under continued COVID restrictions has likened his plight to that of Christians in Hong Kong, where believers are often prosecuted for practicing their faith.
After being released from jail on Monday, Christian Post reports that Artur Pawlowski, pastor of the Fortress (Cave) of Adullam Church in Calgary, Alberta told Newsmax, "I just woke up in Hong Kong a few days ago. I mean, I thought I emigrated to our beloved Canada, but I am in Hong Kong, full force."
The Epoch Times noted Pawlowski as saying, "It's insanity - arresting pastor[s], shutting down churches. Craziness. "
As a result of the latest court order, on Saturday, Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid, were arrested and sent to jail for hosting an "illegal" in-person gathering that was ruled as a violation of COVID-19's health and safety protocols. Both were released on Monday night.
As seen in a video posted on YouTube, at least six police cars were deployed by the Calgary Police Service to intercept the two on the road while they were on their way home. As soon as the police put handcuffs on them, the brothers knelt down on the pavement and declined to get up until they were forcefully taken to the squad cars.
"Shame on you guys, this is not communist China," an eyewitness can be heard confronting the police. "Don't you have family and kids? Whatever happened to 'Canada, God keep our land glorious and free?'"
In China, churches are constantly under surveillance and forced to close throughout the country regardless of whether they are underground or affiliated with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, China's officially recognized Protestant church. Hundreds of ministers and representatives of their congregations have been charged or jailed for their religious beliefs.
The Calgary Police Service issued the following statement on the same day of the arrest: "Earlier today, police arrested two organizers of a church service who were in violation of a new court order obtained by Alberta Health Services (AHS) in relation to mandatory compliance of public health orders for gatherings."
The police claim in their statement that they "proactively" served "an organizer of a church service with the court order to ensure that citizens attending the Saturday service were abiding by the current COVID-19 public health orders."
The statement further said that the arrest and charges against the Pawlowski brothers were for "organizing an illegal in-person gathering, including requesting, inciting or inviting others to attend an illegal public gathering, promoting and attending an illegal public gathering."
"I have become, with my brother, a political prisoner," Pawlowski, who was born in Poland and spent most of his childhood under Soviet control, told Newsmax. "We were taken to custody, thrown on the police van like a piece of meat, and we were denied access to the lawyer for 24 hours."
"It's horrible. It's a repetition of history," he goes on. "I grew up behind the Iron Curtain. I've seen the police abuse of power, people being arrested - you could be arrested at five in the morning, the doors could be broken for no reason. Just listening to a European radio, [would] warrant them to torture you, arrest you, and throw you in jail for five years."
"I escaped communism. I escaped Poland because I wanted to come to a country that is free," Pawlowski explained. "And here we are again, repeating the same mistakes, the same history. And I have to stand up and fight for my rights - not for doing evil, for just opening [the] church for the people that freely want to come and worship their God."
On May 4, Alberta introduced new mandatory health restrictions including a ban on all public or private indoor meetings to "help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health system."
Pawlowski attracted waves earlier this year when he posted a video of police officers inspecting his church last month. He expelled then from his church and likened them to the Nazi Gestapo paramilitary groups.
But Pawlowski isn't the only religious leader to resist government regulation of the places of worship.
Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church, a fellow Canadian, served time in prison for failure to follow health regulations.
In the United States, despite the risk of penalties and the possibility of prison time for refusing to comply with California's COVID-19 rules, Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur insisted that it was the church's divine duty to remain accessible and maintain worship services.
He also called for other pastors and Christians to open their churches and sign a petition which would consider that the church is "essential."