Monday, November 5, 2012

Christians in Laos told: perform animist rituals or face eviction

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LAOS (ANS) -- Christians from several villages in Laos, officially the Lao People's Democratic Republic, are being threatened with an ultimatum: perform acts of spirit worship or face eviction.
Young Christians praying during service in Laos
According to Barnabas Fund (, in Vongseekaew village, Savannakhet province, 13 Christian families were ordered in early October to take part in traditional animist rituals of oath-making and drinking "sacred water" that had been through ritual incantation by a spirit medium. Doing so would be viewed as a public statement that they were returning to the village's traditional religion and renouncing their Christian faith.
"The Christians were told that performing the rituals was necessary for them to be allowed to remain in the village. When they refused, the families were ordered to leave immediately. A few days later, the pressure on them intensified when the authorities threatened to seize and tear down their homes," said a spokesperson for Barnabas Fund.
"But the district chiefs intervened and declared at a public meeting that residents of Vongseekaew could follow any religion of their choice and that no one should stop them.
"The tactic is however being used against Christians elsewhere. In Allowmai, which is just eight kilometers away from Vongseekaew, six Christian families, along with their pastor, Bounlert, were ordered on 18 October to take an oath with sacred water in order to be allowed to remain in the village."
Christians in Laos are frequently threatened with eviction from their homes (Photo: Prince Roy)
The group went on to say that Pastor Bounlert was detained in September along with four other Christian leaders; two of them were released after two days. The provincial authorities subsequently ordered the release of Bounlert, Adang and Onkaew, saying that their arrest by the district police was unjustified. But the police have kept the pastors in custody and threatened to imprison them for two to three more years if Christians in Allowmai do not perform the rituals.
Christian leaders in Savannakhet province believe that the police are trying to force Christians to recant their faith through taking part in the spirit rituals because they were unsuccessful in pursuing legal action against the pastors.
Elsewhere in the same province, a public meeting was organized on October 19, 2012, in Kengsaiyai village to which residents, both Christian and non-Christian, from the surrounding villages were called. They were all told to take an oath stating that they would adhere to the traditional, spirit-cult religion.
The 30 or so Christian families were required to sign documents as proof that they had returned to these practices and had renounced Christ. They were told that without performing the ritual, they would no longer have the right to stay in their villages. But the Christians have refused to participate.
Background on Laos from Barnabas Fund: In its 2008 "Hall of Shame" report, which lists the ten worst persecutors of Christians in the world, International Christian Concern described Laos as a severely underdeveloped country, where "Christians continue to be hunted, imprisoned and murdered", while no one seems to be taking notice of their plight.
The country of Laos is one of the ten worst persecutors of Christians in the world and Less than 2% of the Lao population is Christian. Buddhism is the majority religion, supported by the government, and a considerable number of people are practicing different forms of animism. The Christian faith is often decried as an "American religion" and therefore as an enemy to the state. The Lao Government is fearful of any Western influence and has made clear its intention to "eliminate Christianity".
Since 2004 reports have started to surface about the persecution of Christians in Laos. In particular, local authorities often monitor and harass the Christian community, frequently detaining and arresting believers on false charges. In one incident a village church formerly of 2,000 members was reduced to only 20 after Government officials imprisoned more than 200 of the Christian men, accusing them of being separatist rebels.
The authorities subsequently intimidated and threatened the remainder of the congregation until there were only 20 who found the courage to meet together privately to pray. On August 3, 2008 two 18-year-old Christians and a pastor were arrested after they refused to sign papers renouncing their faith. The church leader faces lifelong imprisonment; the two teenagers will be released only if they agree to deny Christ.

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