Christian Victory in Volleyball: Encouragement In Persecution

Dec 31, 1969 07:00 PM EST

Laos - In the Southeast Asian nation where Christians are continuously despised and persecuted, the victories of local Christian volleyball teams shine new hope and recognition.

On December 2 - Lao National Day, a local Savannakhet Province church finished third in a volleyball tournament. Similarly, evangelical believers in Nakham village, part of the Songkorn District in the Savannahket Province, came in second place in a volleyball competition held on December 12 - the birthday of Kysorn Phomvihan (founder of communist Loas).

District officials entered the evangelical church in Nakham to present the second-place certificate to the Christian team.

The victories encouraged Christians across the nation despite ongoing persecution.

"Most Lao people in Savannakhet thought that evangelical Christians had been eradicated," the leader of a Lao Christian ministry said. "It surprised the Lao people attending the sporting event that evangelical Christians are still alive and active in Laos. Our ministry helped the Lao evangelical team with meals, transportation, uniforms and shoes so that they could compete in the tournament."

The recognition was especially significant considering the heavy persecution during the last three years.

Following the event, the Songkorn Church, which had previously been shut down, was re-opened last month. 700 Christians from outside the Songkorn district gathered in the church to celebrate Christmas in possibly the oldest church in all of Laos.

All the while, persecution flares up in Communist Laos as government officials arrest believers all throughout the nation.

On December 26, local officials arrested the 2 leaders and 15 members from Savannakhet church who went to Dongpoong to celebrate Christmas with other Christians. They were released the next morning with a threat. The same officials then arrested 9 more Christians on the same day and detained them for nine days. Those arrested included believers from Dongpoon, Dongpyyan, Gengyeng and Nadeng villages; notable victims were the 75-year-old grandparents.

On January 10, six believers in Pongseema village were arrested for holding Christmas service at their church; they were released after paying a $12 fine. Most recently, on January 15, five women were arrested for holding Christmas service in the village of Kengkog, Champon District. They were freed the next day, but following their release, the authorities imprisoned six more believers on the same charge; they are still being held in the Jampon District Prison.

"The main reason authorities in Champon and Sayburi Districts are still exerting heavy persecution on Christians is that they are trying to save face," the ministry leader said. "They had previously reported to the Lao central authorities that Christianity had been successfully eliminated from their districts, but now Christians were starting to hold Christmas meetings and services all over these two districts."

"We ask that you would continue petitioning our Heavenly Father for Christians in Laos," the leader said, "especially for the six believers from Kengkok village."

For Christians in Laos, participating in sports events has proved a safe and acceptable method to present themselves to the public. The Christian athletic teams compete against military and police teams, and teams from other schools.

By Pauline C.