(BosNewsLife)- He quietly says he still believes in Jesus Christ. But he can no longer admit it publicly. Since 42-year old Phouthone Chansombat became the chief of Tao Tan, a village 135 kilometers (about 85 miles) from Laos ‘ capital Vientiane , he had to renounce his faith in Christ. “I can no longer be a Christian,” Chansombat says, fighting back tears. Chansombat is not alone. Across the country village chiefs and other workers have been pressured by Communist authorities to give up their Christian faith, BosNewsLife established. Church sources in remote areas of northern Laos claim the Communist government is desperate to stop the spread of Christianity, which it allegedly regard as an unwelcome Western religion. Most construction in several villages BosNewsLife visited seems focused on expanding or building new churches to accommodate the apparently growing number of Christians. Churches also function as a place for healthcare in these areas because there are no nearby hospitals. Human rights workers say the central government in Vientiane regard this church activities as questioning the Communist system of Laos . “The practice of Christianity is often seen as a threat to the state’s ideology or the government’s power,” says Christian Freedom International (CFI), a U.S.-backed group supporting persecuted Christians in the area.
The Vientiane home of CFI co-workers involved in providing aid was therefore raided last week by security forces, BosNewsLife learned. Lao Communist authorities have strongly denied human rights abuses and say they act only against those seen as a threat to society. However in recent months, Communist backed local authorities and police have raided several villages in northern and southern Laos where possibly dozens of believers were tortured and detained on “false charges” ranging from owning “illegal weapons” to holding “illegal gatherings,” church and other representatives say. “Those detained include two village guards, a father and a son, who are already three months in jail because they refuse to give up Christianity,” says a leader of a growing underground evangelical church movement. He speaks on condition of anonymity as in his words “giving negative information to a foreigner can mean 15-years in jail.” He claims village families his movement knows “disappeared” while others have been tortured. Since the latest reported crackdown began four months ago, his movement has been busy contacting persecuted Christians.
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