Lao Christians facing persecution

By March 26, 2007

Laos (MNN) — Christians in a small village in Laos are
facing increasing amounts of persecution, according to a French-based Lao exile
group. They accuse officials in a remote village in central Laos of seeking to
evict Christians who refuse to renounce their faith, but the Lao Foreign
Ministry denies the charge.

According to Radio Free Asia, last week the Lao Movement for
Human Rights (LMHR) charged Nakoon village authorities had stepped up a bid to
eliminate Christianity from the remote area, accessible only by an eight-hour
boat trip.

"Nakoon Christians have been worshiping underground in
fear of arrest and imprisonment," the group said, citing eyewitnesses.

"After learning that the Borikhamxay provincial
authorities had recognized Christianity throughout the province in September
2006, the Lao Christians in Nakoon village began to be open in their Christian
meetings. Consequently, a Borikan district committee of 13 people was formed to
put a stop to the spread of Christianity and also to eliminate Christianity
from Nakoon village."

Reports indicate the panel comprised a district military
officer, the head of village religious affairs, the chief of sub-district
affairs, a district police officer, and the Nakoon village chief, it said. This
panel launched a campaign to force local Christians to renounce their faith and
summoned them to the local government office on 10 occasions.

On March 13, committee members assembled more than 180
people in a bid to pressure the Christians to abandon their religion, the LMHR
reports. When the Christians refused, they were ordered to leave the village.
It published an order to deport 46 people from 10 families.

The Lao Foreign Ministry rejected the allegations,
attributing tensions to difference in farming practices and lifestyles.

"There is a group of new people in the village,"
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yong Chanthalangsy said in an interview. "This
problem has worsened recently. This problem has nothing to do with the
government and nothing to do with the law. The government stepped in because
the problem has escalated," Chanthalangsy says.

Scott Flipse, director of East Asia-Pacific Affairs at the
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said progress in moves
toward greater religious freedom in Laos appears to have stalled.

"We have seen that religious freedom
concerns-particularly in the year before Laos received Permanent Normal Trade
Relations with the U.S.-have improved dramatically. What the Commission is
concerned about is that those advances have stalled and there has been some
regression, particularly in the provincial areas," says Flipse.

Pray for believers in this village. Pray that they will be
allowed to stay and they will be effective in the outreach to others.

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