Violence against Christians In Laos Criticized

( [email protected] ) Sep 07, 2004 11:08 PM EDT

A Laotian group in Paris has accused the Laotian government of leading a “campaign of repression” against Christians living in Kasy, a district not for from the Laotian capital of Vientiane. The accusation was made following the arrest of four Christian Laotians who had refused to recant their faith.

According to a report made by the Laotian Movement for Human Rights (Mouvement laotien pour les droits de l’homme or MLDH), eight Christian families belonging to the Khmu ethnic minority were forced to sign a document renouncing their faith. Two other Christians, known only by their first names of Khamphay and Pheng, refused to sign and have been confined in Kasy prison since August 2.

The human rights group has also reported that in Ban Viengsamay, another village in Kasy district, the authorities expelled all Christian residents. Also, since August 11 Christians in Savannaketh province are no longer allowed to gather for prayer meetings.

In light of these events, the MLDH—who feel their arrest is part of a wider campaign orchestrated by the Laotian Communist regime against religious groups—called on the Laotian government to “free all detained Christians” and allow international observers into the country to determine its human rights situation.

MLDH reports that Christians have been singled out for an eradication campaign as “followers of a foreign religion”. Although worship is possible under very strict conditions, any kind of evangelism or spreading the Christian message is strictly forbidden.

The communist regime, which seized power in 1975, has reportedly maintained tight control over Laotian society, including religious life.

Out of a population of 5.8 million, there are about 100,000 Catholic and Protestant Christians, less than 2 percent of the total. Meanwhile, nearly half of all Laotians are Buddhist while animists are just over 40 percent.