By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
LAOS (ANS) -- Three Christian pastors in Laos have been arrested and detained for "spreading the Christian religion" by reproducing a DVD of a Christian film. Pastor Bounma of Alowmai Village Church, Pastor Somkaew of Kengsainoi Village Church and Pastor Bounmee of Savet Village Church, were arrested on February 5, 2013 by the Phin District police in Savannakhet province.
|A church in Laos|
"While they were watching, a police officer came to the shop and saw the shop owner and the pastors watching the film," said a CSW spokesperson. "The police officer then contacted his superior, Lieutenant Khamvee, who came to the shop accompanied by two deputies. The police arrested the three pastors and took the shop owner to the police station for further questioning. The shop owner was later released without charge.
"During their interrogation, the pastors claimed that the three copies were for their own use, but the authorities insisted that they were 'spreading the Christian religion' through the film. The three pastors are currently being detained in Phin district prison."
|Children praying in a church in Laos|
It goes on to say, "It is forbidden for believers in the Lao PDR to publish or possess books, documents, photographs, signs, video cassettes, VCD, films or other media having characteristics of superstitions.or distortions of truth".
In this case, the film in question can be found in other shops in Savannakhet province, which suggests that either the film has been approved by the authorities, or that the local authorities have turned a blind eye to the sale of the film in other areas.
CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, "CSW is deeply concerned about these arrests, which highlight the restrictions placed on the reproduction and dissemination of religious materials. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), ratified by Laos in 2009, protects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the public manifestation of religion and the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds in any media. We urge the Lao authorities to release the three men immediately and to lift restrictions on the reproduction and dissemination of religious materials, in line with its obligations under the ICCPR."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.