A Canadian pastor who was briefly jailed for violating public health orders by holding church services amind ongoing lockdown restrictions has compared his situation to those living in Hong Kong, where Christians are routinely persecuted for meeting for worship.
In an interview with Newsmax hours after his release from jail Monday night, Artur Pawlowski, pastor of Street Church in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, said, “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.”
“It’s insanity — arresting pastor[s], shutting down churches. Craziness,” Pawlowski added, The Epoch Times reports.
Pawlowski and his brother, Dawid Pawlowski, were arrested Saturday for holding an “illegal” in-person gathering as per COVID-19 restrictions set by a new court order. The two were released Monday night.
“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,” said the Calgary Police Service in a statement on Saturday.
A video posted on YouTube shows that Calgary Police Service sent at least five police vehicles to arrest the two from on the street. The brothers knelt on the road and refused to walk on their own during the arrest.
A voice can be heard telling the officers, “Shame on you guys, this is not communist China. Don’t you have family and kids? Whatever happened to ‘Canada, God keep our land glorious and free?’”
In its statement, Calgary Police Service said it “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 Pawlowski brothers “have both been arrested and charged with 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,” it added.
In China, churches are being monitored and ordered to shut down across the country, whether they are underground or part of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the officially sanctioned Protestant church in China. Hundreds of pastors and church members have been fined or imprisoned because of their faith.
Chinese Christians have also been ordered to renounce their faith and replace displays of Jesus with portraits of Chairman Mao and President Xi Jinping.
Pawlowski, who was born in Poland and lived under Soviet rule during part of his childhood, told Newsmax: “I have become, with my brother, a political prisoner. 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,” Pawlowski said. “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 added. “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.”
Alberta announced new mandatory health restrictions on May 4 to “help stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health system,” including new restrictions prohibiting all indoor gatherings, public or private.
Pawlowski made headlines earlier this year after he shared a video documenting police visiting his church last month. In it, he kicked police officers out of his church and compared them to the Nazi Gestapo paramilitary forces.
"I don't care what you have to say, out!" Pawlowski can be heard saying at the time. "Out of this property, you Nazis. Out! Gestapo is not allowed here. Do not come back, you Nazi psychopaths. Unbelievable sick, evil people. Intimidating people in the church during the Passover. You gestapo Nazi communist fascists!"
Pawlowski is not the only pastor to spar with authorities over COVID-19 restrictions on houses of worship.
Despite facing the prospect of fines and the threat of jail time as a result of his refusal to comply with California’s COVID-19 regulations, Grace Community Church Pastor John MacArthur maintained that it was the church’s biblical responsibility to stay open and hold worship services.
He has also urged other pastors to open their churches and Christians to sign a petition aimed at deeming the church “essential.”
“There’s another virus loose in the world, and it’s the virus of deception,” the 81-year-old pastor told his congregation. “And the one who’s behind the virus of deception is the arch deceiver Satan himself.”