VIENTIANE, LAOS – The only known Christian in a rural district of northern Laos was under pressure Wednesday, March 7, to abandon his faith in Christ or face expulsion from his village.
Khamla of Dongvieng village in Viengphuka district was told by local authorities to “give up believing in the Christian religion” by March 7 “or be cast out from the village,” said Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF), which supports local Christians in Laos.
The Christian, who uses only one name, was allegedly summoned to appear at the local government headquarters where he faced some 20 officials, including a representative of the Communist party, the village leadership and security personnel.
“Authorities are believed to be attempting to abolish the Christian religion from taking root in Viengphuka district,” said HRWLRF in a statement.
Khamla reportedly embraced the Christian faith only after claiming to have been healed from a long-term disease during following “fervent prayers by other believers” outside the district. Viengphuka district’s estimated 20,000 people are mainly farmers and live in small rural villages.
Khamla is the latest known Christian to face expulsion over his faith, rights activists said.
Elsewhere in northern Laos, rights activists said 10 Christian families in Hueygong Village, located in the Pakoo District of Luangprabang province, were given till March 18 to recant their faith or be forced to leave the area, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
In the same province news emerged Wednesday, March 7, that 14 Christian families, comprising some 80 persons, have been told to leave Hueysell village, in Ngoi District, if they don’t stop believing in Jesus Christ.
“Thus far, village authorities have not carried through their threat of expulsion” which was issued in January by local authorities, said HRWLRF, adding that the Christians “have remained firm in their faith.”
The group has urged the government respect the country’s constitution and international treaties regarding religious freedom.
There are some 200,000 devoted Christians in Communist-run Laos, where most of the 6.4 million people are Buddhists, according to Christian estimates.
Lao officials have denied human rights abuses against minorities. (BosNewsLife)