Christian Boy in Laos Driven from Home for His Faith

The parents of Kimsan*, a 15-year-old boy in Laos, gathered up all his belongings, stuffed them into a bag and threw it at his face.

“Go stay with those Christian friends or leaders of yours,” his father said, referring to a friend and local missionaries discipling Kimsan after he became a Christian three weeks before. “If you want to live here, want to be our son and want to eat at our dinner table, stop this religion at once.”

As Kimsan left his home in a village whose name is undisclosed for security reasons, his father went out to report him to the village head.

This was not the first time Kimsan had felt the sting of rejection for his new faith. A week before, his parents sat him down for a serious talk after learning of his departure from their ancestral beliefs, the leader of a local ministry said.

They told him they would kick him out of the house or kill him if he continued with this “foreign religion.”

“This religion is against the law of the nation,” his father told him. “The authorities do not like it, and we as your parents, do not like this religion either.” They told him they would kick him out of the house or kill him if he continued with this “foreign religion,” the leader said. “They said, ‘If you do not stop this religion, you have no right to call us Mom or Dad,” he said. “Kimsan stood there in tears and in shock. He did not argue back, as he saw there was no point to argue as it would escalate into a worse situation.”

Disowned

The next Sunday, Kimsan attended a house worship service, returned home, opened his Bible, and started praying, the leader said. When his father noticed, the leader said, he cursed at Kimsan and shouted, “You do not listen to me at all – stop this nonsense religion! If you do not stop, I will take my gun and shoot you down!” Within a week came the final encounter, and they sent Kimsan away. “Once you walk out of this house, do not ever step foot into this house again,” his father said. “Do not call us Mom and Dad anymore.” Village leaders agreed with his father and other relatives that he was a bad son for disobeying his parents and turning to a “foreign religion” – considered an act of betrayal, the ministry leader said. The village leaders discussed with his parents ways they might get him to recant, such as removing his name from official family registration records. That would mean he did not legally exist. The ministry leader said they also considered reporting him to district police to be arrested on various pretexts such as disrupting community peace, as had happened to many other Lao Christians. The village head said that in order to have peace in the village, it must be rid of all Christians. Believing that Kimsan had been tricked into Christianity and that soon he would be sold to whatever foreigners were behind this strange cult, the leader said, his parents called him and told him that in order to be completely free from them, he must compensate their costs for raising him – $5 (50,000 kip) for each day from birth to age 15, or $27,375. That being impossible, the parents had to settle for officially disowning their son in village committee records.

‘Illegal’ Religion

While Kimsan’s parents misspoke in telling him that Christianity was illegal in Laos, a 2016 decree on religion states that nearly all aspects of religious practice – holding religious services, building houses of worship, modifying existing structures, and establishing new congregations in villages where none existed – require permission from a local Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) branch office. The decree empowers MOHA to halt any religious activities or beliefs not in agreement with policies, “traditional customs,” laws, or regulations within its jurisdiction – whether or not a group is officially recognized or registered nationally. Thus village officials can find several pretexts for arresting Christians, even though the Lao government officially recognizes the religious umbrella groups for Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and the Baha’i. The only officially recognized Christian denominations are the Catholic Church, the Laos Evangelical Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many local missionaries discipling new Christians like Kimsan have been persecuted themselves and are well-versed in the Scripture, prayer and counsel needed to help keep him secure in the Lord. Native workers proclaim Christ in the communist-controlled country with first-hand knowledge of how to disciple new believers who will face intense opposition. In one six-month period, the local ministry conducted 40 seminars that trained more than 1,900 Christians, including 34 seminars spread over nine provinces for men, women and youths, the leader said. “This is to strengthen the local belivers in their faith, fellowship, and encourage them more in the Lord’s Word,” he said. Three of the seminars train Sunday school teachers and provide materials, as few Sunday school materials are available in the country. “Also, we want the children to be strong in their faith when persecution comes and understand why at times they and their parents are persecuted,” the leader said. “So we educate the Sunday teachers to understand this.” Local missionaries are proclaiming Christ on Facebook, in small groups and in personal encounters throughout the country. Please consider a donation today for their support, training and other tools for proclaiming the gospel and strengthening Christians who face intense opposition. *Name changed for security reasons

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