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Lao Officials Visit Expelled Christians, Give Assurances

Officials led by provincial governor explain law providing for right to believe.

3/19/2010 Laos (Compass Direct News) – Officials in Laos ’ Saravan Province yesterday visited 48 Christians expelled from Katin village and assured them that they had the legal right to embrace the faith of their choice, according to advocacy group Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom. The delegation, led by provincial Gov. Khamboon Duangpanya, read out June 2002’s Decree 92 on the Management and Protections of Religious Activity in Laos and explained its religious freedom provisions to the group, assuring them that they could freely believe in Christianity “if their faith was genuine.” They also said they had the right to live anywhere in the district. Ta-Oyl district officials had expelled the Christians from Katin village at gunpoint on Jan. 18 when they refused to give up their faith. Having lost access to their homes, fields and livestock, the Christians then built temporary shelters at the edge of the jungle, about six kilometers (nearly four miles) away from the village. The district head, identified only as Bounma, on Monday (March 15) summoned seven of the believers to his office and declared that he would not tolerate the existence of Christianity in areas under his control. The group must either recant their faith or move elsewhere, he’d said.

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