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Lao, People's Democratic Republic
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Lao, People's Democratic Republic

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A Christian home in Laos. Christians in the country’s rural areas are particularly subject to persecution by the local authorities

“Those Christians have to renounce their faith or they have to leave the village!” When 82 residents of a village in rural Laos accepted Christ and three of their neighbours then died of unrelated causes within a short space of time, villagers called an animist witch doctor, who said that the Christians’ faith had angered the ancestors. Local officials then threatened severe consequences if the Christians did not give up their faith, and the believers were made to pay for the travel expenses of the officials and for the costs of the funerals.

Christians in Laos, who make up between 2 and 3 per cent of the population, often suffer persecution from village and district officials. In some areas Christians, particularly those belonging to ethnic minorities, suffer harassment, threats and detention or are denied access to education and medical care. Those who refuse to give up their faith may be expelled from their villages and/or lose their livestock or land.

Although the country’s constitution provides for religious freedom, local authorities do not uphold this and the central government, which promotes Buddhism (the majority religion) as an element of the country’s identity, rarely overrules them. Christianity is considered by all levels of government to be a threat to national unity. Both local and central authorities are very suspicious of the rapid spread of the Christian faith among ethnic minorities.

The government officially recognises three Christian groups and refuses to recognise others. Independent congregations are subject to more severe limitations than the official churches. Printing Bibles is illegal, and nearly all Christian activities are subject to a laborious process of governmental approval. Permission for legal activities such as importing Christian literature, evangelising and building churches is often denied. In areas where permission to build a church has not been given and local authorities also forbid Christians from gathering in private homes, meeting together is very difficult.

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