Laos has a history of Christian persecution under communism. The situation has improved over the last 30 years, but Christians are still targeted. Missionaries are forbidden.
Laos a Communist nation where 67% of the population is Buddhist, and only 2% are Christian. Authorities in some villages of Savannakhet Province, which is located in the south-central part of the nation, are persecuting Christians, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom.
Christians in Natoo village, Palansai district, Savannakhet province, Laos, were told by village officials, “If you want to live in our village, you must cease all beliefs and practices in the Christian faith.”
The heads of the four Christian families were summoned to a meeting with the village authorities on 21 December and told that all 47 Christians living in the village must give up their faith in Christ and cease all Sunday worship meetings. Natoo village church was formed two years ago, and Christians hold weekly worship services in the home of the church leader, Mr Sompu.
Natoo is approximately five kilometres from Boukham village, where eight church leaders were arrested in December 2011 for holding a Christmas celebration. One of the detainees was set free, but on 27 December the other seven had their legs clamped in a long wooden plank. They were each ordered to pay a fine of US$125 (£80; €95) and a cow (worth US$600; £385; €458) for violating the traditional cult of the village, but they denied the charges and refused to pay. After the intervention of higher authorities the fine was reduced to just US$125 each and the leaders were finally set free on 12 January 2012.
The Lao constitution protects freedom of religion, but implementation of this right at a local level can be arbitrary. (Barnabasfund)