Christian villagers in the Asian nation of Laos which is Communist with a Buddhist religious majority are being evicted from their homes and ordered to stop holding church services.
Worthy News reports that in one southern village, eight Christian families comprising about 60 people have been ordered to leave their homes because their faith goes against “the dominant village religious belief in animism or traditional spirits cults.”
They were told they had 30 days to find new homes. Video shows them sitting and standing in a jungle area as they searched for materials to build temporary shelters.
The chief of another village ordered a church leader and 17 followers to end their religious activities, threatening them with arrest and huge fines if they did not obey the direction.
Morning Star News reports that four years ago, nearly 200 residents in the area began adopting the Christian faith. They were subjected to a campaign of intimidation, threats, and coercion to abandon their religion. After a few continued to openly express their faith, village officials stormed a house worship meeting and closed it down..
It is unclear if the central Communist government will intervene. “They are obligated to protect the Lao Christian believers from acts of aggression from other villagers due to the Lao Christians’ decision to replace their former religion with the Christian faith,” according to the Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) advocacy group.
Its director told Worthy News that the Laos constitution and international agreements the country signed recognise the right and freedom of all Lao citizens “to believe or not to believe in religions.” The HRWLRF has also called on the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN Special Rapporteur to intervene.
Some churches are registered and heavily monitored in Laos, but others cannot get permission to meet and have to operate secretly. Even among the government-approved churches, few have permanent buildings of their own and have to meet in homes. Christians are generally viewed as Western-influenced “enemies of the state” according to advocacy group Open Doors.
“The leaders of unregistered churches have been arrested and held for as long as a year; their families and churches have to pay huge sums of money for their release. In most cases, local authorities are the source of persecution, frequently cooperating with the community and families,” Open Doors reported.
Christians also endure discrimination in the workplace and may be barred from, or lose, their government jobs when their faith becomes known. The lack of educational and professional opportunities has contributed to Christian boys and men getting ensnared in drug addictions. Pastors in northern Laos say Christian girls are increasingly targeted as brides to be trafficked into China.