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Christians arrested and house church meetings banned in Laos

Country/Region: South and East Asia, Lao, People's Democratic Republic

Christians in a Laotian village have been ordered to stop worshipping in private homes as several Christians were arrested in different parts of the country.

A pastor and three other Christians were arrested at a house church gathering in Sounya village in Namtha district of Luang Namtha province on 10 July. Pastor Seng Aroun, Souchiad, Naikwang and Kofa were charged with assembling for worship without approval. All but Pastor Aroun were released after three days.

lao-peoples-democratic-republic-4X3.jpg
Map showing the location of Lao Peoples Democratic Republic

They were holding a meeting in Kofa’s home; the Christians in Sounya normally hold their weekly Sunday services in another member’s house. The villagers have now been ordered to stop worshipping in private homes altogether.

Christians in Sounya village have faced persecution since the conversion of around 400 residents in 2002; they have been meeting in homes since the authorities destroyed their church building two years ago.

Faithful convert

Elsewhere, a Christian convert was arrested after he refused to renounce Christ and return to the traditional Lao religion of animism. Vong Veu remains in custody after being arrested on 10 July in Pookong village in the Viengkham district of Luang Prabang province. He was charged with embracing the Christian religion and asked to abandon his faith in order to prove his innocence, but he refused.

In another incident, church elder Abee Weng and three other Christians, Pachua, Bouleuvang and Kae, were arrested on 29 March while travelling back home to Luang Prabang city from Pookong village, where they had been invited by new believers there to help them grow in their faith.

The four were charged with “spreading foreign religion and eradicating Lao traditional religion”, but Pastor Weng insisted that they did not spread the Christian faith and were only guiding new converts. They were released after four days in prison.

Pastors jailed

Two pastors who were arrested in January for “gathering for the purpose of creating turbulent unrest” remain in custody in Khammouan Province. Pastor Wanna and a colleague were detained with eight other Christians including two children. Pastor Wanna, who leads a church in Nakoon village, has been repeatedly arrested and beaten for his Christian activities.

Bounchan Kanthavong, a pastor in Udomsai Province, is nearing the end of a 12 year prison sentence following his conversion to Christianity and preaching of the Gospel that resulted in around 70 people accepting Christ. He was arrested in 1999 and convicted of “treason and sedition” because he had been involved in leading Laotians to abandon the traditional animist faith and follow Christ; the Lao authorities consider Christianity to be a foreign religion and thus a threat to national unity.

Following Pastor Kanthavong’s detention, his wife Sengkham took over the leadership of their small Christian community; it has grown to more than 3,000 believers today. In April this year, the authorities told Pastor Kanthavong, a father of five, that they were willing to release him if he renounced Christ and separated from his wife.

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