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  • » 03/28/2014, 00.00

    LAOS

    Lao Christian families who refused to convert to Buddhism flee village



    HRWLRF activists denounce that Christians were under considerable pressures to abandon their faith . For the authorities, they left the village of their "own free will". Now they have rebuilt a small community in a new, safer area, with full freedom of worship.

    Vientiane ( AsiaNews / Agencies ) - Six Lao Christian families victims of constant pressure have had to leave their native Buddhist majority village in the south of the country; residents wanted to force them to abandon their religion and convert.

    This is denounced by Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (Hrwlrf), an NGO based in the United States, according to which members of the minority were "threatened with eviction", if the "did not renounce their faith". However according to officials of the province of Savannakhet, the families left Natahall village, Phin district, of their "own free will" to "avoid confrontation" with the other inhabitants.

    In early March (but the story only recently emerged) some Christian families fled the village of Natahall, building new housing in an area about ten kilometers distant. In the past, the group had converted to Christianity, and this choice, over time, created growing discontent and impatience between the Buddhist majority and the group, in particular, village elders and heads. This year was marked by a continuing escalation of tension, which resulted in the decision to flee.

    According to the Hrwlrf report , members of the Christian minority were the victims of persecution and abuse. In December, the leaders of Natahall village, with the support of the police, issued an eviction order against them, but the group resisted and refused, at first, to flee or convert. The authorities "acted to ban the Christian faith from the village and expel the inhabitants who continued to profess Christianity".

    The last episode was on 11 March when, during a public meeting community leaders offended the Christians, calling them followers of a "foreign American religion" and forcing them to convert to Buddhism. The families decided to abandon their homes, starting a new life in a safer area .

    Since the Communists came to power in 1975, and the resulting expulsion of foreign missionaries, the Christian minority in Laos has been under strict controls, its right to worship limited.

    In a country of six million people, most people (67 per cent) are Buddhist. Christians make up about 2 per cent of the total, 0.7 per cent Catholic.

    Protestant communities have suffered the most from religious persecution, a situation AsiaNews documented in the past. Cases include peasants deprived of food for their faith and clergymen arrested by the authorities.

    Since April 2011, tighter controls have been imposed, following a violent crackdown against protests led by some groups within the country's Hmong ethnic minority.

     

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    See also

    19/09/2009 LAOS
    Arbitrary arrests, threats, kidnappings: the new anti-Christian persecution
    Wave of persecution against Protestants in particular, accused of being a "threat" to the government because they adhere to foreign faiths. Children denied school and families denied water, believers treated like pariahs and chased from the village. Among the causes, the economic support of authoritarian states.

    12/07/2011 LAOS
    Fears for lives of Protestant pastors in prison for six months
    Arrested on 4 January, the two religious leaders are facing serious health problems. Authorities condition release on their renouncing their faith. Improvement in conditions of Christian families expelled from the village of Katyn in 2010.

    20/02/2014 LAOS
    Censorship, abductions and abuses: Laos is Southeast Asia's "most repressive" regime
    Activists slam Laos for having a "very dictatorial, rights-repressing government" in terms of civil rights and individual liberties. Sombath Somphone's disappearance is warning to all activists and opponents of the regime. A Lao citizen confirms that no one can talk about politics or criticise the ruling Communist Party. Even religion is under tight state control.

    07/09/2004 LAOS
    Violence against Christians in Vientiane and Luang Phrabang


    22/12/2011 LAOS
    Eight Lao Christians in prison for Christmas
    The authorities have not yet charged them. They were detained for “organising” a celebration with 200 Church members. Police and local village officials meet to decide their fate as religious freedom continues to be denied in the Communist nation.



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