Christians in Laos Still Subject to Persecution Despite Reported Improvements
05/11/2020 Laos (International Christian Concern) – Despite updating a law to protect religious activities and uphold religious freedom, Christians in Laos continue to face harassment by local officials, according to sources from the communist country.
A Christian villager told Radio Free Asia on 5/7 that in Luang Prabang province in the country’s north, religious rights are still restricted, with officials deriding Christianity as an American import.
“They say that in our village there is no Christian god, and that our ancestors were all animist,” according to the anonymous source.
An official once told the source, “But you people believe in America’s god. Don’t you remember what America did to our country?” He was referring to widespread bombing carried out in Laos during the Vietnam War.
Christian villagers are also marginalized in their interaction with the government, sometimes they are cheated out of their land, the source added.
“They say that Christians have no rights, and that no one will take care of them,” he said. “We even go to speak to the village leaders, but these are the same people who are already angry with Christians.”
While the latest U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report stated that there have been improvements for religious freedom in the country, noting a decrease of arrests or detainment, Christians still face hostilities from the government.
Ethnic Hmong Christians in Laos remain objects of suspicion by authorities for refusing to renounce their Christian faith, with three families evicted from their homes and village in Luang Namtha province’s Tine Doi village earlier this year.
On March 15, Lao pastor Sithon Thipavong was arrested by local officials for conducting unspecified religious activities in Kalum Vangkhea village in Savannakhet province’s Xonbury district, and has since been sentenced to six months in prison, sources told RFA, adding that no official explanation for his arrest has yet been given.
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