» 03/28/2014, 00.00
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
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.
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
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.
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".
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 .
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.
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.
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.
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.
Violence against Christians in Vientiane and Luang Phrabang
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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