02/07/2024, 15.09
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Homes destroyed, Bibles torched in anti-Christian persecution in Savannakhet

Village chiefs and residents attacked a house church in a village in southern Laos. The faithful, whose community is recognised by the government, were meeting for the Sunday service. Despite their complaint, the police have not yet punished the attackers. The region has already been the scene of sectarian persecution in the past.

Vientiane (AsiaNews) – Christians are still being victimised in Laos. In a village in the southern part of the country, local leaders and some residents broke into a private home to stop a group of families who had gathered for religious services last Sunday, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported, citing witnesses.

This incident comes as anti-Christian attacks and lawsuits continue in the predominantly Buddhist country ruled by a one-party communist regime, despite a national law that protects religious freedom, at least on paper.

“The village authorities came here and tore down our home at around 10:30 am Sunday morning,” said a worshipper who attended services at the home church in Kaleum Vangke, a village, Xonboury district (Savannakhet province), speaking to RFA Lao.

“The authorities, including the village chief, village security guards and senior members of the village attacked us suddenly and destroyed our place of worship,” explained the eyewitness, unnamed for fear of retaliation.

The mob also burnt Bibles and other documents during the attack. “They tore down our home because they don’t want our Christian brothers and sisters to worship God,” a second eyewitness lamented.

Although the incident was reported to district authorities, the latter have done nothing so far. Contacted by RFA, the Xonboury district police said that they were dealing with the incident.

A third believer said that last month, prominent villagers summoned the six local Christian families and told them to stop practising their religion, specifically, to stop holding Sunday services; otherwise, they would tear down their building.

The house church in Kaleum Vangke is affiliated with the Lao Evangelical Church. Although it is the only Protestant Christian denomination recognised by the government, it still came under attack.

Kaleum Vangke is no stranger to religious conflicts. In March 2020, Pastor Sithong Thipphavong was arrested and told to denounce his Christian faith. When he refused, he was charged and convicted of causing social disorder and breaking village unity. Jailed for a year and fined four million kip (US$ 200), he was released only in April 2021.

Overall, acts of repression like last Sunday’s are becoming more frequent in the country, said another member of the local Christian community.

Communist-ruled Laos is predominantly Buddhist (67 per cent). Out of a population of just over seven million, Christians are about 2 per cent of the population, 0.7 per cent Catholics.

The Laotian government recognises only four religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Baha'is. Protestants have suffered the most from sectarian persecution.

On previous occasions, AsiaNews has documented cases of farmers deprived of food for their faith and members of the clergy arrested by the authorities.

Photo: Radio Free Asia.

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