Three weeks -- that's how long Pastor Artur Pawlowski has spent behind bars without a trial. He was denied bail in mid-February, although "he doesn’t have a court date pending until March 10th or 11th," explained reporter Adam Soos. Pawlowski isn’t in North Korea or China. No, he was targeted by Jason Kenney's totalitarian regime of Alberta. You would think a man jailed three times since COVID began, and arrested five times, would have to be some sort of criminal, hardened through long habit and a well-seared conscience. In reality, Canadian officials can't tell the difference between a criminal and a Christian.
Pastor Pawlowski is the first person ever charged under the Great North's "Critical Infrastructure Defense Act," which authorizes "extraordinary measures... largely intended for blockades of pipeline constructions or railways," Soos explained. Pawlowski didn't block anything. All he did was go down to the Cootes border crossing to preach. "He prayed with them (Freedom Convoy), and then he left," said Soos. Strangely, Soos added, "the people who were physically blockading the border, the people who were there for weeks on end, [have] not been charged under this act." Pawlowski was arrested later as he left his home.
It's clear to Soos that Pawlowski is "targeted as a pastor for daring to publicly decry the government." His previous offenses have been for such scandalous crimes as preaching the word of God and feeding the homeless, even while the temporal sovereign ordered all places of worship to close. Infuriated by his refusal to obey men rather than God, the Canadian government intends to make an example out of him.
"Plainclothes officers and what amounts to basically a SWAT team stormed the house as he was walking down the steps and dragged him away," Soos described. "Every time, they do these dramatic, SWAT-style arrests." It's complete intimidation. "The man has never not shown up for court. The man has never been violent whatsoever." The episode bears a striking resemblance to another meek preacher arrested by overwhelming force. Jesus asked the mob in Gethsemane, "Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?" (Matthew 26:55). And they dragged him off without a fair trial.
While striking, Canada's suppression of pastors shouldn't surprise us. Jesus himself predicted, "'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you" (John 15:20). Of course, we shouldn't invite persecution by willfully committing crimes. "It is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil" (1 Peter 3:17). As sinners persecuted Jesus without cause (John 15:25), so they will persecute those who follow in his footsteps. "Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).
Given our long history of religious freedom, Americans often expect immunity from persecution. In fact, we keep a list of the bad countries who violate religious freedom (which Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., suggests should now include Canada).
Pastor Andrew Brunson was imprisoned in Turkey for years on false charges. Now, as FRC's Special Advisor for Religious Freedom, he warns persecution is coming. Last month, Brunson delivered prayer pledges to a Finnish politician on trial for the Bible. "This is a preview of what we could face in the United States in the future," he said. Already Canadian and Finnish rulers have "set themselves... against the Lord" (Psalm 2:2); soon American Christians may be forced to decide whether they will "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). When that time comes, how will you answer?