10/14/2020, 10.53
LAOS
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Laotian Christians driven from their village for refusing to renounce faith

The eviction took place on 10 October from the village of Pasing-Kang, in the district of Ta-Oesy, in the southern province of Saravan. Relatives and friends cannot help them for fear of retaliation. The authorities recently issued a law for the "protection" of Christians, largely ignored in rural areas.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) - Seven Laotian Christians from the province of Saravan have been driven out of their homes for refusing to renounce their faith and are now forced to live in the open in the surrounding forests.

Activists and NGOs denounce the latest episode of violation of religious freedom in the Asian nation under the Communist leadership in which, at least at the regulatory level, everyone can exercise their faith. Recently, the Vientiane authorities promoted a law for the "protection and awareness" of Christians.

An anonymous source speaking to Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that on October 10 the authorities expelled the seven Christians from their homes. They are members of two families from the village of Pasing-Kang, in the district of Ta-Oesy, province of Saravan, in the south of the country. "Now these people" continues the source "live in a small hut in the forest" and "have no food or clothing and do not know where to turn for help".

Local witnesses, again speaking on anonymity for fear of retaliation, also add that other members of the community are discussing among themselves how to provide help and assistance to their comrades.

"The village authorities - they underline - will not allow relatives or other people to help them".

After days in the forest they are without rice, other basic foods and are calling for help so that their "basic needs" are met. "They also need blankets" concludes the source, but "their family members are too scared and fear they too will be thrown out of their home if they dare to provide any kind of help".

In the capital Vientiane and in the big cities, where the seven million inhabitants are mostly Buddhists, Christians equal to about 2% of the population are more or less free to practice their faith. The reality is different in the rural areas of Laos, where there are frequent cases of threats and persecutions, often perpetrated directly or with the support of local authorities.

In spite of a timid improvement in the protection of religious freedom observed last year, cases of abuses and violations of religious freedom in remote and rural areas are still frequent. Among the groups most affected are the Christians of the Hmong ethnic group, persecuted and discriminated against by the Communist government since the Indochina war because they are considered "collaborationists" of the United States.

At the beginning of the year, three families were removed from their homes in the village of Tine Doi, in the province of Luang Namtha for not renouncing their faith. On March 15, the Laotian pastor Sithon Thipavong was arrested by local officials for carrying out unspecified religious activities in the village of Kalum Vangkhea, in the province of Savannakhet. The authorities never wanted to clarify the charges against him.

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