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12/10/2019 Laos (International Christian Concern) – The communist Lao government in 2016 passed a religion bill known as Decree 315, which aims to cripple efforts to spread the gospel, as it requires prior permission to carry out religious activity beyond a religious group’s building.

According to Christian Aid Mission, the decree empowers Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) to stop religious activities – or even beliefs – that differ from “policies, traditional customs, laws, or regulations,” and may stop any religious activity “threatening national stability, peace, and social order…or affecting national solidarity or unity between tribes and religions.”

As a result, native missionaries doing evangelism outreach to neighboring villages are delayed or denied. One church leader reported that MOHA officials required him to submit travel plans in advance for permission that could take as long as 20 days to process.

“Missionaries have expressed their complaints about the difficulty [caused by] the new Decree 315 law, which restricts the rights of Christian activities,” the director of a native ministry said. “They cannot just go to visit another village freely as they did before. They must get a paper of approval from the local authorities and state the purpose of the visitation, what reason, and who is going.”

In addition, Christian groups cited problems registering and constructing churches and obtaining permission to travel within the country.

According to U.S. State Department’s 2018 International Religious Freedom Report, “Religious groups must submit annual plans of all activities, including routine events, in advance for local authorities to review and approve.” The report adds that “The decree states nearly all aspects of religious practice – such as congregating, holding religious services, travel for religious officials, building houses of worship, modifying existing structures, and establishing new congregations in villages where none existed – require permission from a provincial, district-level, and/or central MOHA office.”

In spite of these challenges, native missionaries continue to set foot in places where the gospel has not been heard.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected].