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    » 09/30/2014, 00.00

    LAOS

    Persecution continues in Laos as Christians are detained for meeting to pray



    Authorities in Savannakhet raid home and arrest Christian clergyman and six members of his congregation. They were having lunch after Sunday Mass. At present, they are still being held at a government building. The clergyman was brought in handcuffed and shackled. Village authorities had banned Christians from praying together.

    Vientiane (AsiaNews) - The head of Boukham village in Atsaphangthong district, Savannakhet province, together with top security and police officials, arrested Rev Sompong Supatto and six members of his congregations because they were exercising their right to religious freedom by praying at the clergyman's home.

    As Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) reports, the incident occurred last Sunday morning in the same province where, in May, three Christian schoolgirls were not allowed to take exams at the end of the school year because of their faith. A few weeks later, in late June, a local village chief prevented the funeral and burial of a newly converted Christian woman.

    According to local witnesses, the authorities raided the home as the pastor and six members of his congregations were having lunch, following Sunday morning service.

    Detainees are in custody at a government building in the village of Boukham. Rev Sompong is handcuffed and shackled; the other six are not.

    The previous week, village authorities had banned Christians from getting together to pray.

    Human rights activists and HRWLRF officials have appealed to the Laotian government in Vientiane to respect religious freedom and uphold civil rights international treaties to which Laos is a party.

    They are demanding the release of the prisoners and exemplary punishment for Boukham's village chief and other officials involved in the anti-Christian raid.

    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

    21/04/2006 LAOS
    Christian arrested for refusing to recant

    Lapao refused to obey the orders of local Communist leaders; two out of four Christian families in his village have been expelled. His plight was reported by organizations at work in the region.



    18/08/2006 LAOS
    Two Christians arrested in Savannakhet province

    Government is trying to stem growing evangelisation according to human rights group.



    10/06/2014 LAOS
    Human Rights Watch: No Progress on Rights in Laos

    In a report submitted to United Nations activists denounce systemic human rights problems. The forced disappearance of civil society leader Sombath Somphone is particularly worrisome. Lao authorities are defying international concerns. People fear their government because they know officials act with near total impunity. 


    12/01/2011 LAOS
    11 Christians arrested in Laos for celebrating Christmas, 3 remain in custody
    The arrest took place on January 4, during a prayer meeting - authorized by authorities - to celebrate the birth of Jesus Today, three Christian leaders are in jail on charges of having "organized a secret meeting." Families forced to sign papers to "renounce their faith."

    22/05/2014 LAOS - EUROPEAN UNION
    Eleven Christians arrested for praying are ignored by Laos-EU talks
    In Savannakhet province, 11 Laotian Christians arrested for meeting at an "unauthorised" location remain in custody. CSW calls on EU leaders to raise the issue of religious freedom with the Asian country. Violations of religious freedom overshadow talks.



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