Lao, People's Democratic Republic
|Village officials frequently ignore the rights of Christians in Laos
sweet_redbird / CC BY-SA 2.0
Take part in an animist ritual to renounce their Christian faith or leave their village. This choice was placed before six Christian families on 18 October 2012 in Allowmai, Savannekhet province, Laos. When they refused, they were warned by the district police that their pastor, who had been detained a month earlier, would remain in prison for two or three years. Despite orders from provincial authorities to release him, the police did not let the pastor go.
Village and district officials frequently take the law into their own hands in Laos. In some regions Christians, particularly those belonging to ethnic minorities, suffer threats, harassment, detentions, property confiscations, forced relocations and forced renunciations of faith or are denied access to education and medical care. Rural churches are particularly vulnerable. In some places Christians are threatened with expulsion from their villages or lose their livestock or land.
The central government rarely restrains local authorities, despite the fact that the constitution and laws allow for freedom of religion for the country’s small Christian minority of 2 to 3 per cent. Both local and central authorities are very suspicious of the rapid spread of the Christian faith among ethnic minorities. They consider Christianity an American import and a threat to national identity and unity. Buddhism is the majority religion, supported by the government, and a considerable number of people practise different forms of animism.
The government officially recognises three Christian groups and refuses to recognise others. Independent congregations are subject to more severe limitations than the official churches. Nearly all Christian activity must undergo a strict and laborious approval process by the Lao Front for National Construction (LFNC), the national agency responsible for religious affairs, in either their local or their national offices. This means in practice that many Christians are prevented from performing legal activities such as importing Christian literature, evangelising and building churches. Printing Bibles is forbidden.