Lao Officials Demand Christians Renounce their Faith
March 2, 2012
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - The following information from Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) regarding two churches in Luangprabang Province was sent to Christian Aid by an indigenous ministry being assisted in Laos.
The indigenous ministry in Laos that is helped by Christian Aid Mission requests prayer for these believers. Pray also that these incidences will be used by God to bring many others in Luangprabang Province to Christ, and that God will change the hearts of these government officials who strongly oppose the churches.
Village officials threaten to banish Christians from their village.
Hueysell Village, Ngoi District, Luangprabang Province
In mid-January 2012, Hueysell village authorities, consisting of the village chief, the village religious affairs chief, and the heads of other village government organizations, summoned two Christian leaders to its headquarters. The authorities ordered the Christians to abandon their Christian faith or face expulsion from their village. Church leader, Mr. Jehia, and all 14 families in the Hueysell Church (consisting of over 80 individuals) have remained firm in their faith. Thus far, village authorities have not carried out their threat.
Village officials demand that the Christians forsake Christ or be expelled from their village.
Hueygong Village, Pakoo District, Luangprabang Province
On February 18, 2012, the Hueygong village chief, Mr. Khampeng, and the Saysawang sub-district police chief, Mr. Sompon, issued an expulsion order against ten Christians families, consisting of approximately 65 believers. Eight of the ten families became Christians three months ago. Christians now are holding worship services in the home of their leader, Mr. Jar-Yang.
According to the order, Christians have until March 18, 2012, to recant their Christian belief or else be expelled from their village. Local Christians are uncertain whether officials will use force to follow through with the order.
The expulsion order came shortly after the Pakoo district government refused to recognize the presence of Christians in its district—even though eight Christian churches now exist there. Prior to the order, district officials requested the Christians to report the number of believers and churches to the Pakoo district government office in order to obtain permission to be Christians.
A Lao church leader in northern Laos stated that a request to be Christians in Pakoo district needed approval by the Pakoo district chief and the district religious affairs office, as well as the secretary of the communist party of the district. Without these officials approving the request, they stated that villagers cannot become Christians. If they insist on believing in Christ, they would then face punishment in the form of expulsion from their village or a similar action.
On February 2, 2012, Mr. Bousee Chantuma, the head of religious affairs of Luangprabang province, is reported to have intervened, asking Pakoo district officials to reverse the expulsion order, deeming that the order was not legal. Bousee has informed these district officials that if the expulsion order is not reversed or cancelled, he will appeal to higher authorities—namely, the provincial governor, the prime minister’s office, the Lao parliament, or the central government’s religious affairs department. Bousee holds that district authorities cannot arrest Christians without first going through the provincial religious affairs office, because it involves religious matters which are under his jurisdiction.
For current information about the situation in Laos, see: www.hrwlrf.net/
For more information about indigenous missions in Laos or to provide financial assistance to believers in Laos, contact Christian Aid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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