03/15/2012, 00.00
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Christians persecuted in Laos as violations of religious freedom continue

A new convert, the only Christian in a village, faced with an alternative: leave the faith or leave his home and property. At the moment his fate is unknown. In another district, 10 Christian families victims of a deportation order. The Laotian authorities persecute the Protestants considered "part of the US conspiracy".

Vientiane (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The communist authorities in Laos continue their campaign of persecution against the Protestant community, the victim of abuse and violations because it is considered "part of the U.S conspiracy" to overturn the government. In the past, Christians were subject to imprisonment, blackmail and threats designed to make them renounce their faith, expulsions and denied the right to study and medical care. The many conversions recorded in the recent past, particularly among ethnic minorities, have pushed the party leader to strengthen the campaign of repression and only in recent weeks there have been two different cases, against a newly-converted Christian in a village in the province of Luang Namtha and 10 families in Luang Prabang.

The first story concerns a man named Khamla, the only Christian in a village in the district of Viengphuka, Luang Namtha province. He is a recent convert, after being cured of a long illness through the fervent prayers recited every day by a friend in a neighboring district. The authorities have repeatedly ordered him to abandon the Christian faith. At his refusal, on 2 March officers faced him with a choice: leave his home and the village, or renounce his faith. This is because, said some witnesses, "the authorities want to keep Christianity away from Viengphuka". At the moment there is no information about his fate because of strict censorship on the issue.

Instead the second story dates to mid February, when a deportation order was issued by officials of the village of Hueyong, Pakoo district, Luang Prabang province, against 10 Christian families for a total of 65 faithful. Eight of 10 families converted just three months ago, but without the "permission" of religious affairs officer of the area who, therefore, launched a harsh campaign of persecution.

In Laos, a nation led by a communist regime, the majority (67%) are Buddhist, of a total of six million inhabitants, Christians make up about 2% of the population, of which 0.7% are Catholics. The most frequent cases of persecution are against the Protestant Christian community: in the recent past, AsiaNews has documented cases of peasants deprived of food for their faith (see AsiaNews 25/02/2011 Food denied to 65 Laotian farmers to force them to renounce Christianity) or pastors arrested by the authorities (see AsiaNews 12/07/2011 Fears for lives of Protestant pastors in prison for six months).


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