Lao Christian Arrested, Asked to Renounce Faith
04/26/2019 Laos (International Christian Concern) – Police in southern Laos have allegedly arrested, beaten and detained a man in Savannakhet province for practicing his Christian faith on Thursday, according to Radio Free Asia’s (RFA) Lao service.
The man named Agoon was arrested for another crime, based on police’s accusation – he was cutting timber illegally in a protected forest. However, several local sources believe Agoon was unfairly targeted for his faith.
One source told RFA in an interview that Agoon’s involvement in the timber-felling is merely an excuse—the other loggers in his group, all of whom are non-Christians, were not arrested. Another source explained that Agoon and others cut down trees at the request of the village leader in Phin district. Officials however rarely enforce the statutes against illegal logging.
Agoon said while imprisoned, the police tried to force him to renounce his faith, but he refused. He was then harshly beaten, slapped to the point that he became unable to hear.
RFA was able to speak about the case with an official from the National Front Organization, which handles religious affairs in the communist nation. The official stated that Agoon cut timber illegally and “has to pay a fine or serve jail time according to forest laws. [His arrest] has nothing to do with religion.”
It is not uncommon for Christians to face persecution in the Buddhist-majority, communist country. Three American Christians recently were detained by the Lao government for distributing Bibles and Christian materials without obtaining permission. They were deported last weekend.
Christianity is often regarded as a Western religion. Lao Christians face more scrutiny from the government if they are with underground churches. Unregistered activities can be shut down or lead to arrest and detention.
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