Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Christians in Laos threatened to recant or leave their homes

Laos is a Communist-ruled South-east Asian state known for its abysmal human rights record, particularly its appalling prison conditions and systematic use of torture, reports the Australian Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission.

Christians in this poor, landlocked nation face intensive persecution. Generally the religious persecution occurs outside the main cities, targets the already marginalized and persecuted ethnic minorities, and is committed by belligerent and corrupt local officials. In Laos, religious liberty exists in theory but not in practice. Article 30 of the Laos Constitution states: “Lao citizens have the right and freedom to believe or not to believe in religions.” However, the Prime Minister's 2002 Decree on Religious Practice (Decree 92) renders religious liberty illusory by mandating that religious activities first be approved by the village, district and regional authorities.

On March 2, Khamla, the only known Christian in the whole of Viengphuka district in Luang Namtha Province, was summoned to meet with Lao officials at their headquarters. Khamla had recently converted to Christianity after being miraculously healed from a long-term disease in answer to the prayers of believers from another district. After rebuking and interrogating Khamla, the authorities gave him an ultimatum: recant or leave Dongvieng village by March 7. Local authorities are reportedly determined to keep Christianity out of Viengphuka district. No update on Khamla is available.

On February 18, local authorities in Pakoo district of Luangprabang Province issued an expulsion order against 10 Christian families. The families, comprising some 65 believers, were given until March 18 to either recant their faith or leave Hueygong village. Eight of the 10 families became Christian only three months ago, but without the permission of the Pakoo district chief, a district religious affairs official and the secretary of the Communist party's regional branch. The head of religious affairs of Luangprabang Province has reportedly intervened and is seeking a reversal of the expulsion order on the grounds that it is illegal as provincial religious affairs are supposed to be under his jurisdiction. Whether he is protesting injustice or procedural irregularity is unclear.

Please pray that God will...
  • bless His faithful Church in Laos, protecting them wherever they are, meeting all their spiritual, emotional and physical needs.
  • redeem this suffering, using the arising witness to fan flickers of faith into a revival that transforms communities: may there be a spiritual awakening in Laos that liberates tribal animists driven by fear of ancestral spirits; Lao Buddhists driven by fear into legalism and ritual; and spiritually empty Communists driven by atheism into meaninglessness, selfishness and cruelty.
  • bring unity and solidarity to the body of Christ in Laos, so that registered (state-approved) religious groups will not be ashamed of those who are suffering on account of Christ's name. May they have strength and courage from the Holy Spirit to support their brothers and sisters who are suffering. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35 ESV)
For more on persecution in Laos, please visit our Laos Country Report.

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