Christians In North Laos Face Their Choose "Go Back or Go Away" Under Severe Persecution, Even in Discipleship Class
By Boaz Wadel
Many believers in Northeast Laos are meeting in small groups to avoid drawing the attention of local officials. In January, local officials in an undisclosed village in Vientiane Province, Northeast Laos, pressured 27 Christian families to stop worshiping Jesus Christ. The believers were coerced into signing a paper saying they agreed with the officials' demands. "One or two families have signed," according to a ground source, "because their relatives threaten to cut ties if they do not do so." At the moment, believers are meeting together in smaller groups.
Twenty-three other Christian families in the same region face the possible loss of their houses and farmlands. Police and village officials threatened to evict the believers if they persisted in worshiping Jesus. Though they have not yet been evicted, the families were placed under house arrest. Right now, they continue to worship as families in their respective homes.
The Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC) oversees the religious affairs of Laos. All churches and religious organizations are required to register with the LFNC. This government body is said to be undergoing a transition, which could spell either disaster or relief for Christians in Laos. Please pray that the transition will produce greater freedom for believers in Laos to practice their faith.
On December 2013, police officers in an undisclosed village (in Luang Prabang Province) summoned pastor Toang*, after they received reports that he was holding a 'political' meeting. But the pastor was conducting a discipleship class for his congregants. His residential documents were revoked, and Toang was forced to return to his former village. "He is under investigation," said a local source, unnamed for security reasons. "We are waiting for what's going to happen next."
Two other churches in another village in Luang Prabang were also placed under investigation. "When the villagers started believing in Jesus Christ," the same source said, "the officials began to pressure them to return to their old (animistic) practices."
The local authorities gave the believers an ultimatum to recant their faith, or they would be kicked out of the village. At least six Christian families, or about 30 believers, could lose their homes if the village officials had made good on their word.
In Bokeo, another province in northern Laos, local believer, Bane*, was recently placed under house arrest after relatives reported his religious conversion to officials. The believer had been invited to people's houses to pray for the sick. Many of them were healed and about six families believed in Jesus Christ as a result. In prison, the guards forced Bane to pay for his food as a way of pressuring him to recant his faith.He refused.
"It's a rule in Laotian prisons for inmates to pay for their food during their term," Open Doors' source said. "But Bane insisted that he had done nothing wrong, so he would not pay for his food. The police also warned him about going to houses and praying for the sick people. They told him to do it in the streets if he insisted on continuing."
Bane was steadfast. He defended his 'Christian' act by saying that it was no different from what the village shamans were doing. Unable to break his will, the police released Bane after 10 days of incarceration.
"Their pastor is now looking for a place where they can stay," said the local contact.
Two years ago, police officers in the area confiscated the believers' identity cards and have not returned them since.