As he attempted to get on a flight to Bangkok to receive medical treatment, prominent Kachin Baptist pastor, Dr. Hkalam Samson, was seized by the Burmese military on December 4th, 2022. 21Wilberforce is calling on the Burmese military junta to put an end to violence against the people of Burma, to surrender the power they seized during the 2021 coup, and to release Dr. Samson. To that end, 21Wilberforce is campaigning for members of the United States Congress to champion Dr. Samson’s case as a chance to highlight the need for freedom for all Burma.
Dr. Samson is the former President and General Secretary and current advisor of the Kachin Baptist Convention. Kachin State is the northernmost state of Burma (Myanmar) and shares a border with both China and India. He was reportedly arrested for his preaching during Bible classes that was deemed to be subversive to the Burmese military regime. He also actively advocated for human rights and prominently helped the victims of brutal airstrikes by the military junta. He eventually faced charges of terrorism, unlawful association, and inciting opposition to the military regime and was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment on April 7, 2023. His family is concerned about his deteriorating health and a recent appeal letter was rejected.
Dr. Samson actively supported his community during the brutal years of violence against the Kachin people. He personally arranged the funerals for the 60 people who were killed and medical care for the survivors of military airstrike on a Kachin Independence Organization concert. He also was actively involved in humanitarian assistance to more than 100,000 internally displaced persons within the Kachin State. Samson faced prosecution previously after meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss religious freedom in Burma in July 2019.
The Burmese military’s airstrikes and ground attacks have decimated communities around the country. The Peace Research Institute Oslo found that over 6,000 civilians were killed during the first 20 months of the conflict following the military coup. According to the United Nations, over 2.3 million people are internally displaced within Burma and 1.35 million have fled the country as refugees.
21Wilberforce is campaigning for a member of the U.S. Congress to stand up as a designated advocate for Dr. Samson as part of the Defending Freedoms Project of the Lantos Commission for Human Rights. The Defending Freedoms Project “aims to increase attention to human rights abuses by encouraging Members of Congress to advocate on behalf of prisoners of conscience wherever they may be found.” If you are interested in contacting your member of Congress to urge them to support Dr. Samson and the people of Burma, you can contact the 21Wilberforce team.