Government Sponsored Cruelty Continues in Communist Laos
February 9, 2010
48 Laotian Christians, marched from their village at gunpoint, have been abandoned on the roadside three miles from their homes. Their return to home and family is blocked by armed police squads.
Happier times when church members gathered to build their own church
Despite human rights’ efforts to protect religious minorities in Laos through the UN backed International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, Laotian government officials continue violating the religious rights of Christians in Katin, Saravan.
Christian Aid has received yet another report in the on-going acts of cruelty toward Christians in Katin, Laos. This is the third urgent plea for help received within the past 12 months from a Christian leader in Laos on behalf of the group. Laotian Christian leaders are collecting funds to help the villagers build temporary shelters, and have asked for international help.
In 2003, government officials confiscated their church building and forced the believers to meet outside in the open air. Then in 2006, their Pastor was murdered but the believers continued to worship in their homes. Now in 2010, they have been forced out of their homes to live in the jungle.
Since January 10, officials have stationed police at the entrance of Katin village in order to keep Christian believers out. Unable to return to their village, all 48 are internally displaced persons. Including women and children, they are forced to sleep on the ground in the jungles that surround their former homes. They were left exposed by the government without food, extra clothing, shelter, or any means of survival.
2003: Believers met outside their church after it was confiscated
The latest wave of persecution began early this year in the village of Katin, Ta-Oyl district, Saravan, Laos. Around 10 AM on January 10, officials from the District Center invaded the morning worship service of 48 Christian men, women, and children.
The officials forced them at gunpoint to walk three miles (six kilometers) from their homes to a point where they were left along the roadside. Meanwhile, back in the village, other Laotian authorities seized personal belongings from 11 homes and scattered them in an open field. They confiscated a pig from one believer’s home, and went on to destroy 6 of their 11 bamboo homes.
On January 18, the Saravan provincial religious affairs’ official, Mr. Khampuey, and the Ta-Oly district official, Mr. Bounma, showed up at the site where the believers were forced to stay. Both officials ridiculed the faith of the villagers and tried to persuade them to renounce their faith saying, “Why do you believe in it (Bible)? It’s just a book.”
The believers responded by saying it was not just a book but a gift from God. But the officials only continued with their mocking, “The other poor people from your village are receiving assistance from the Government because they do not believe in the Christian faith. But you believers – are you receiving any help?”
When one of the believers replied that he had been given new life by the Holy Spirit, the officials again derided the group with more threats:
Despite severe persecution so prevalent in Laos, Bible studies like this are always resurrected at the first opportunity.
“See what happened to you because of your belief? You are left in the middle of nowhere without any home, food, or help.
“You should deny your Christian belief and then you will be allowed to return to your village.
“None of the other 56 villages in this district wants you either. They said they would rather live with lepers and the demon possessed than to have Christians residing among them.”
Ministry leaders hearing of this have filed a petition seeking help from the Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom. They are asking the central government to intervene and order district officials to stop the cruel and inhuman acts of starvation, destruction of homes, property, and livelihoods.
The leaders insist that incidents like the persecution in Katin are becoming more and more frequent.
2006: Pastor Aloun was martyred for his faith early that year
The International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, a worldwide organization that acts as a watchdog over political and religious freedom, has taken up the case of the villagers in Katin.
“Our brethren in Laos have been enduring this kind of treatment for a long time and they need our help,” says a spokesman for Christian Aid Mission. Relief contributions received by Christian Aid will be sent to ministry leaders who can reach these 48 people with food, clothing, and shelter as they await help.
“They need everything,” say Laotian leaders, “even personal belongings including new Bibles.”
Christian Aid is responding with emergency aid to native missionary leaders. The aid will assist with medical care for victims and help rebuild broken lives and the local Body of Christ.