Until today, though, I hadn’t heard much about the very real persecution of Christians in the southeastern Asian nation of Laos. In many regions of that small country, religious persecution continues despite Constitutional protections. Minority Protestants, in particular, have been denied the right to worship; more than half of practicing Christians have no official church building in which to pray, but instead hold small “house services” at which neighbors come together for worship and teaching. Two Buddhist monks have been arrested in Bolikhamsai Province for having been ordained without government authorization. Protestants arrested for active proselytizing have sometimes been subjected to “reeducation.”
Recently, eleven Christian families have been given a harsh ultimatum: Renounce their Christian faith, or leave.
The eleven families, all of whom reside in the village of Nongdaeng in western Laos, converted to the Christian faith last spring, in April and May 2013. At first three of the families began praying in their homes; eight other families in the neighborhood were gradually inspired to join them.
But on August 30, representatives from each of the 11 families were summoned by civil authorities in the Province of Burikhamai and were ordered to renounce their new faith and return to the animist religion common in that region. The government officials, who represented the Department of Religious Affairs, called on the Christian families to “abandon the religion of Western foreign power, which is disruptive to the nation of Laos.”
But the families were not persuaded. On Sunday, September 1, they gathered for a liturgical service in one of their homes—insisting that they had the right under the Constitution of Laos to practice their faith freely.
As the case moves forward, the Christians do have an advocate: Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom, a United Nations NGO, has urged the Lao government to permit people of Nongdaeng to worship in the Christian faith. The NGO has also recommended that the government impose sanctions on the officials who issued the “order of renunciation and eviction from the village”, which they have called “completely illegal.”
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Remember the faithful people of Laos—and all those throughout the world who live under oppressive regimes—in your prayer.