10/04/2019 Laos (International Christian Concern) – According to a Swiss Christian persecution watchdog group, the pressure on Christians in the Southeast Asian country of Laos is increasing.
The communist country has deepened relations with other authoritarian allies – Vietnam, North Korea and China, “a rapprochement that is a concern for Christians in the country”, explains HMK, a Swiss organization against Christian persecution.
A pastor from Laos, who has been working and serving the Lord for over 20 years, shared with HMK how he was put in prison for three months for gathering Christians at his home. “The authorities also took my family out of the village, which was a great trouble for us, because the children did not have a school to go to, and my family could not have water from the public well,” he added.
After his release, he also was not allowed to return to his house and had to move somewhere else.
Last April, the Lao government arrested and deported three U.S. volunteers who were part of a Christian organization. A Lao Christian in the southern province of Savannakhet was also beaten up and arrested because of his Christian faith.
While the Laos Constitution guarantees religious freedom, “but only on paper and is to promote trade with the West and to avoid international sanctions. But in the past decade, the government has passed and enforced laws that blatantly violate religious freedom,” says HMK.
In 2017, Vientiane has enacted its Decree No. 238 on Associations, which allows it to arbitrarily restrict or ban the formation of associations, including churches, and to criminalize unregistered associations. A year prior, Decree No. 315 on the Management and Protection of Religious Activities was issued, which contains many additional restrictions regarding the registration of religious groups, the ordination of religious leaders, religious events, acceptance of foreign money, travel abroad or invitations from foreigners to Laos.
“The ideology of the Communist government, laws to exercise strict control over religious groups and demand their registration, and the stamping of Christians as American agents together, form a deadly mix that makes it extremely dangerous in this country to be a Christian or become active as a Christian,” HMK pointed out.
Yet despite the tightened control, the Church is still growing in Laos.
For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].