Laos (MNN) — There's good news and bad news coming out the country of Laos. That's the word from Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs.
"The good news is that Voice of the Martyrs contacts told us last week that six pastors that had been held since the month of March this year, have now been released from prison. The bad news in this story is there are three pastors who are still being held," Nettleton says.
The pastors were arrested as they were heading to Thailand for a pastoral training seminar. He says, "Somehow the Laotian authorities got word of what they were doing, stopped them at the border, and went through their stuff. When they found there were Bibles among their luggage, that's when they were taken into custody. So, essentially they were arrested for having a Bible and trying to cross the border into Thailand."
Laos is currently ranked 8th on Open Doors World Watch list of world's worst persecutors of Christians. Nettleton says, "Laotian authorities want to control the church. They want, in some cases, to simply eliminate a Christian presence from their country."
A recent report from Compass Direct says eight family members were evicted by village leaders for simply converting to Christ. Nettleton says village level persecution is common, "Although, at the national level, there's definitely a desire to control the church. There's definitely a desire to prevent Christian work and evangelism from going on within the country of Laos."
While persecution abounds, the church is not in retreat. It's growing. And Voice of the Martyrs is doing all they can to support that growth. "One of the ways is providing training to pastors and church workers, discipling them and training them to increase their ability," says Nettleton. "We're also involved heavily in printing and distributing Bibles and other Gospel materials."
Nettleton says VOM has a Web site for Christians who would like to encourage an imprisoned pastor — PrisonerAlert.com. "People can log on. They can write a letter to a prisoner. This site will actually translate it in Laotian, so when you print it out, it will be in a language that this pastor who is in prison can read."
He says it does more than encourage that pastor. It will also "let the government and the jail officials know that [the pastor] is known outside of the country. Hopefully that will result in better treatment and an early release for him."