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    » 11/14/2014, 00.00

    LAOS

    Scores of Hmong Christians arrested and evicted for refusing to give up their religion



    Six families in the District of Khamkeut were forced to leave their homes, driven out by village leaders because they refused to return to their old animist religion. One of the elders of the family died from grief shortly after the forced eviction. Two young Hmong Christians remain in prison of their faith.

    Vientiane (AsiaNews) - Six Hmong Christian families have been forced to leave their village in central Laos after refusing to renounce their faith, this according to family friends and other members of their ethnic group.

    The six families, consisting of 25 people, were driven out of their homes in Ko Hai village, in Khamkeut district, Borikhamxay province, because they would not revert to their ancestral faith. Most residents in the village and neighbouring towns practice traditional religion.

    Local sources state that local authorities never accepted the decision of the six families to embrace Christianity and sought every way to have "them revert back to animism".

    Witnesses report that village leaders had two men from Hmong families arrested in July and held for at least a month, because they refused to renounce their Christian faith.

    Once the men were released, the authorities tried to force them to return to animism, but the Christians refused and were forced to leave their homes.

    Between late August and mid-September, local authorities evicted the Christians and seized their homes; however, the story only emerged recently as a result of anonymous complaints by locals.

    The six families in question were moved to the village of Hoi Keo, also in Khamkeut District, near the town of Lak Sao.

    The situation was made that much worse by the death of one of the elders, the 62-year-old patriarch of one of the families, shortly after he was forced out of his ancestral home and village.

    Because of forced relocation, the Christians lost their old homes, land and the few assets at their disposal.

    In a second incident, which dates back to early November, seven other members of the Hmong minority - among them a 14-years-old - were arrested in Luang Namtha, northwestern Laos.

    In this case as well, people were arrested for converting from animism to Christianity, an act that displeased local authorities. Two who refused to abjure their religion were sent to a provincial prison.

    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 that AsiaNews has 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

    19/07/2005 LAOS
    Two Christians sentenced to three years in prison


    19/10/2012 LAOS
    Tribal oaths and animism forced on Lao Christians to renege on their faith
    Three Protestant clergymen and their families were forced to undergo this experience. Arrested by police in Phin District, the pastors were released by provincial authorities, but instead of letting them go home, local officials prodded by village chiefs and elders forced them to undergo harassing ritual practices to force them to give up their religion.

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

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



    25/01/2014 LAOS-CHINA
    Laotian farmers defy police and Chinese companies in defense of disputed land
    Dispute over thousand hectares of rice fields in the northern province of Bokeo. Singled out to become an airport as part of a development plan that will lead to the creation of a reserved area for gambling. Farmers defend the land, the only source of wealth and claim compensation offered to date is derisory.

    12/03/2005 LAOS
    Ethnic Minority Catholics Build Community




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