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aos’ approximately 150,000 Christians are targeted both at a local level and by the government. Locally, they are subjected to harassment and violence, while the communist government imposes tight restrictions on religious activity.

In 2016, the government introduced new laws governing religious practice. Under the new legislation, religious organisations continue to be required to register with the government. Churches have to get approval to conduct services and to import printed or electronic literature. The laws also require them to refrain from disturbing the “social order” or “national harmony.”

While Buddhists enjoy comparative religious freedom in some parts of the country, local officials are typically highly suspicious of Christians, partly because of a perceived connection with the West.

A Christian home in Laos. Christians in rural areas are particularly subject to persecution by local authorities

On 29 December 2018, police raided a Christmas church service in the southern province of Savannakhet and arrested seven Christians, including three church leaders, who were charged with an “illegal gathering” and detained them for five days. The church was also vandalised.

Some believers from the Hmong ethnic minority have been evicted from their farmland and homes for refusing to renounce their faith. Christians from ethnic minorities have also been denied access to medical care and education.

Christians imprisoned for their faith, especially pastors and evangelists, are sometimes tortured. Congregations that are not able to complete the onerous registration requirements can find it very hard to meet, as local authorities have been to known to ban house churches. Authorities have also confiscated Bibles from Christians, even from those belonging to registered congregations.

Laos is one of the poorest countries in south-east Asia. Around 80% of the seven million population, which is mainly Buddhist, work in agriculture.

Prayer

Pray for believers in Laos that, despite harassment, violence and the threat of imprisonment, they will continue to share the Gospel of Christ, knowing that the LORD is on their side (Psalm 118:6). Pray that restrictions requiring churches to register will be lifted and that Christians will be able to freely access Scripture.