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World News

Laos Christians driven out of homes for refusing to renounce their faith

by Will Maule

Reports have emerged that a group of Christians in Laos, which borders Thailand, are being expelled from their village for refusing to renounce their faith, despite the Government's recent commitment to honouring laws designed for the “protection and awareness” of the Christian community. 

According to International Christian Concern, authorities in Laos’ Saravan province drove out seven Laotian Christians, who are now forced to live in huts located in a nearby forest. A source told Radio Free Asia that the evicted Christians are members of two families from the village of Pasing-Kang, in the district of Ta-Oesy. “They have no food or clothes and don’t know who they can turn to for help," the source told RFA.

Another added that village authorities "would not allow their relatives or other villagers to help them" with food and other much-needed supplies. "They also need blankets,” the source said, “and again, their own relatives are too afraid now of being evicted themselves to provide them with what they need."

A member of the Lao Evangelical Church told RFA that his church was "trying to find a solution to this unfair treatment,” and expressed sadness that to see that Christians continued to be persecuted in Laos despite the passing of a national law protecting religious belief.

The Law on the Evangelical Church, signed in December 2019, permits Christians to conduct services and preach, along with maintaining communications with believers in other countries.

An official from the Lao Front for the National Construction of Saravan Province said his office had not been formally notified about the details relating to the case. “Things have been quiet,” he said. “Their religious leader just came here and spoke with the Office of Religious Affairs.”

Open Doors lists Laos at number 20 on its World Watch List, which details the most dangerous countries to live in as a Christian. 

"Christians who have converted from the primary religions - Buddhism and traditional animism - are the most targeted for persecution; they are thought to have rejected their families and communities," the charity states. 

The group adds that government authorities are "re-emphasising Communist values and trying to keep the number of conversions down."

They add: "It reflects the Government’s effort to stay in power and fight all forces perceived as foreign. Christians must take extreme caution to stay on the good side of the Communist authorities.

"House churches are considered illegal gatherings and must operate in secret. The authorities use information from registered churches, which are government-controlled, and local leaders - mostly Buddhist monks - to put pressure on Christians." 

Open Doors lists the number of Christians currently residing in Laos at 227,000 out of a population of roughly seven million people. 

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