The tiny Christian minority of some 150,000 believers faces repeated harassment from local authorities in rural parts of Laos. Whilst the central government is more tolerant, the perception of Christianity as a Western faith makes people in rural areas highly suspicious of Christians. This hostility has been expressed in abuse, eviction from homes, imprisonment, even torture.
A “Law on the Evangelical Church”, in force since December 2019, gives Christians the right to conduct services, preach throughout Laos and maintain contacts with believers abroad. The legislation, however, has not stopped Christians being subject to abuse. In October 2022 Pastor Sy Seng Manee was found dead, bearing signs of torture. He had just started holding meetings four years after a previous arrest and imprisonment for his evangelistic preaching.
In February 2022 a Christian family group of twelve were driven from their home in Savannakhet Province because of their faith, taking refuge in a nearby forest. They were pressured by district officials to remove or amend social media posts describing their ordeal, including those showing attacks on the coffin of the family’s father in December 2021 and the burning of the family home.
In late 2022 five Christian families in Salavan Province were still awaiting new homes promised by government officials, months after their homes were demolished in separate incidents in October 2020 and January 2021.
Religious organisations must register with the government but some churches struggle to satisfy onerous registration requirements. Local authorities sometimes ban house churches and even registered churches have had Bibles confiscated.
A 2017 decree prohibits “associations” from disturbing the “social order” or “national harmony”, but its vague wording gives local authorities such freedom to interpret threats to “social order” that Christians are often targeted.
Pray that the Laos government’s commitment to freedom of worship will be enforced across the country to ensure that Christians are allowed to practise their faith in peace. Ask the Lord to provide for those who have lost homes and lands because of their trust in Him.