The pastor of a church in Savannakhet, Laos was released from prison on 9 April, three days after being convicted of “creating disorder” and “disrupting unity”.
Sithon Thippavong was arrested in March 2020 after being accused of conducting church services without permission.
He was finally convicted on 6 April 2021 and sentenced to a year’s imprisonment; however, he was released on the grounds that he had already been detained for a year prior to his conviction.
Thippavong, who was also given a fine of 4 million kip (approximate £310; $426), was arrested after refusing to sign a document renouncing his Christian faith.
“We prayed for Pastor Sithon for more than a year now,” said a Christian in Laos. “We’re very excited that he’s still alive ... He may have been sick and frail in prison, but now he’ll be very happy to be able to serve God again.”
There are approximately 150,000 Christians in Laos. Christians are subjected to harassment and violence at a local level, as well as being targeted by the communist government despite the constitutional guarantee of “the right and freedom to believe or not to believe in religion” and official recognition of Christianity alongside Buddhism, Islam and Baha’i.
In December 2020 seven Lao Christians, evicted for refusing to renounce their faith in Christ, were denied permission to rebuild their demolished homes in Pasing-Kang, Salavan province.