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Canadian Pastor Flees to Kenya to Escape Persecution After Govt Froze Protesters' Bank Accounts

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A Canadian pastor has moved his entire family to Kenya to escape persecution from the Canadian government after he prayed and sang the national anthem at a peaceful protest.

Harold Ristau, a decorated veteran and chaplain, participated in a convoy of Canadian truckers opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates, last February. 

The "Freedom Convoy" traveled from British Columbia to Ottawa where freedom rallies were taking place to oppose an edict that would require truckers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. 

Ristau was one of nearly 10,000 people who attended. 

Smartphone footage captured him and other veterans dismantling a blockade around a war memorial. The group cleaned and decorated the monument, The Federalist reports.

Ristau also prayed the Lord's Prayer and sang the national anthem at the rally.

"We prayed to hold those who have done bad, who need to repent and take account for wrongdoing, that they be held accountable for their sins and receive the mercy of God," he told the outlet. "We prayed that there be no injuries, that no one here would have a hateful thought in our hearts, that our hearts would be filled with love."

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Ristau was not arrested but faced criticism and threats from fellow Canadians for his participation in the peaceful assembly, including being penalized by the government. 

Last February, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared a "public order emergency" under the Emergencies Act. The government used that order to freeze the bank accounts of protestors and donors.

The seminary professor is now a part of litigation challenging the constitutionality of that order.

Ristau says he was threatened with removal of his security clearance, and confiscation of his retirement funds, kid's college funds, and other savings. 

His five children were mocked at school for their family's religious beliefs and political views. 

After enduring mistreatment from their community, the family moved outside of Nairobi, Kenya where Ristau is teaching theology to Kenyan pastors.

"I don't know that I can go back and be a Christian in Canada. So that's why we're here in Kenya," Ristau said.

"There's no protection, if a pandemic started tomorrow, from future mandates. So that's why I was really open to coming here," his wife, Elise Ristau, told The Federalist. 

As CBN News has reported, several Canadian pastors have faced persecution including jail time for peacefully protesting COVID-19 restrictions. 

In June of 2021, Tim Stephens, the pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Southeast Calgary was arrested for holding church services and "flouting" pandemic health orders, despite only 951 reported COVID cases across Canada at the time. The disturbing footage was shared online showing Stephens being hauled into a police vehicle as his terrified children looked on, sobbing uncontrollably.

Pastor Tobias Tissen of Steinbach, Manitoba, was arrested in October 2021 for reportedly violating COVID-19 health orders. He spent an extra night in jail after police said he wouldn't be released unless he agreed to stop preaching in church.

And most notably, Artur Pawlowski, the pastor of Street Church and the Cave of Adullam in Calgary, Alberta, was arrested on multiple occasions by authorities for holding church worship gatherings despite the mandates. 

Marty Moore is a lawyer for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF). He's litigating a case for Ristau and fellow Canadians Jeremiah Jost, Edward Cornell, and Vincent Gircys.

Moore says the "fight is far from over."

"As soon as they knew your name if you were on the ground in Ottawa, they froze your bank account," Moore told The Federalist. "…The federal government met with the banks, gave the names to the banks, and the banks were then pushed to freeze the bank accounts of anyone with that name in their banks. It was a fascist collaboration." 
"Some of the measures that were at least attempted to be invoked are the kind of measures you find to freeze terrorist financing," Moore noted. "So peaceful protesters were the equivalent of terrorists and the government leaned on banks in the guise of a national emergency to freeze their bank accounts."

In a JCCP statement, Moore added, "The evidence of these four Canadian protestors shows a shared sense of betrayal by the Government for invoking emergency measures to mount a needless and militaristic crackdown on peaceful protesters that left them fearful for their futures and the future of Canada.  The Federal Court has an important responsibility to hold the Government to account and prevent the unjustified claim of an 'emergency' to trample on the rights of Canadians."

For the Ristau family, life in the savannah has its difficulties, but it is far more peaceful. 

"Things are normal here, people have traditional values," Elise said of Kenya. "I had dreamed of this perfect life for myself in Canada...[but] there was a kind of turning point where I said, 'We can go. Nothing is holding us here.' It was a 'shake the dust off our boots' moment."

"In Kenya, I know it's poor, and there's corruption, but we're not getting arrested for praying silently outside abortion clinics," she added. "For a Christian in Canada, it's pretty bleak."

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About The Author


Talia Wise has served as a multi-media producer for, CBN Newswatch, The Prayer Link, and CBN News social media outlets. Prior to joining CBN News she worked for Fox Sports Florida producing and reporting. Talia earned a master’s degree in journalism from Regent University and a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia.