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Lao Christians facing persecution

3/26/07 Laos (Mission Network News) According to Radio Free Asia, last week the Lao Movement for Human Rights (LMHR) charged Nakoon village authorities had stepped up a bid to eliminate Christianity from the remote area, accessible only by an eight-hour boat trip.

“Nakoon Christians have been worshiping underground in fear of arrest and imprisonment,” the group said, citing eyewitnesses.

“After learning that the Borikhamxay provincial authorities had recognized Christianity throughout the province in September 2006, the Lao Christians in Nakoon village began to be open in their Christian meetings. Consequently, a Borikan district committee of 13 people was formed to put a stop to the spread of Christianity and also to eliminate Christianity from Nakoon village.”

Reports indicate the panel comprised a district military officer, the head of village religious affairs, the chief of sub-district affairs, a district police officer, and the Nakoon village chief, it said. This panel launched a campaign to force local Christians to renounce their faith and summoned them to the local government office on 10 occasions.

On March 13, committee members assembled more than 180 people in a bid to pressure the Christians to abandon their religion, the LMHR reports. When the Christians refused, they were ordered to leave the village. It published an order to deport 46 people from 10 families.

The Lao Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations, attributing tensions to difference in farming practices and lifestyles.

“There is a group of new people in the village,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy said in an interview. “This problem has worsened recently. This problem has nothing to do with the government and nothing to do with the law. The government stepped in because the problem has escalated,” Chanthalangsy says.

Scott Flipse, director of East Asia-Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said progress in moves toward greater religious freedom in Laos appears to have stalled.

“We have seen that religious freedom concerns-particularly in the year before Laos received Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the U.S.-have improved dramatically. What the Commission is concerned about is that those advances have stalled and there has been some regression, particularly in the provincial areas,” says Flipse.

Pray for believers in this village. Pray that they will be allowed to stay and they will be effective in the outreach to others.