Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 15 August 2012
Lao Christians threatened with violence and eviction unless they recant
Country/Region: South and East Asia, Lao, People's Democratic Republic
“We cannot deny the reality of God’s power.”
Tongkoun Keohavong, leader of Nahoukou village church, Laos
|A village in Laos
Axelrd / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Five Christian families have been threatened with violence and eviction from their Lao village if they do not recant their faith.
Tongkoun Keohavong, the leader of Nahoukou village church, in Utumpon district, Savannakhet province, was summoned to a meeting with the village authorities on 6 August. He was questioned about the growth of Christianity in Nahoukou and explained that since February over 30 villagers had put their faith in Christ and were gathering for weekly worship in homes.
The village chiefs ordered Tongkoun and the other Nahoukou Christians to renounce their faith and stop meeting together, but the church leader stood firm, saying:
God is real. When we believe, we are healed from sickness and immediately delivered from the possession of evil spirits. We cannot deny the reality of God's power.
He was told that only "Lao religions" – Buddhism, Brahmanism and spirit worship – were allowed to be practised in the village. Christianity is considered a Western import in Communist Laos and as such is treated with great suspicion.
The following morning, all five families, comprising around 40 individuals, were summoned before village officials at a meeting attended by all of Nahoukou's non-Christian residents.
The Christians were berated for their faith and ordered to recant or face eviction. They were told to stop gathering for worship and were threatened with physical violence if they refused to renounce Christ.
Similar threats made against a Christian community elsewhere in Laos have been carried out. Christian families were driven out of Katin village, Ta-Oyl district, Saravan Province, at gunpoint in 2010 and have since had their crops destroyed by the authorities.
Earlier this year, two groups of Christians from villages in Luangprabang province were threatened with expulsion if they refused to give up their faith.