Christians in Laos threatened with death
Christians in Laos have been told they will be killed if they do not give up their faith or leave their village according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The Christians were told by a Laos government official at a village meeting: ìIf you do not give up your Christian faith, leave the village; if you do not give up your faith or leave the village, you will be punished by deathî.
This shocking ultimatum was delivered at a meeting in Donthapad village, Sanamchai District in Attapeu Province, southern Laos on February 19.
A Christian in the village wrote a plea for help stating: ìThe officialsí purpose is to totally eradicate Christianity. They are threatening to destroy our homes and to burn our homes. We are not able to travel anywhere. We are kept in an area confinement. They keep watch on us. If we do not move from our village, they said they would kill us because the whole village agrees with them.î
Christians in Laos are very concerned by these threats as believers are often mistreated and significant numbers have been thrown into prison for their beliefs. The main official mentioned is Mr Boumlarb, the Deputy Chief of Sanamchai District.
CSW has learnt that Tong-luang, a school teacher, was arrested on March 4, at his home in Donphai, again in Sanamchai District, because of his refusal to give up his faith. Tong-luang had been arrested previously with two others at a Christmas prayer meeting in Donphai village on December 28 2003. All three were released in January 2004.
Mr Bounsouk (Manien), a Christian, is a particular target for the attacks, and was nearly run over by an official on a motorbike on February 3. He has had his land confiscated and officials have now confiscated his pigs, his main livelihood.
The Donthapad village chief, Mr Somsuak, is fining Manien and another believer Mr Silanon 900,000 kips (£47) for continuing to hold onto their Christian faith. They have been told if they do not pay soon, the village chief will take over their property and burn their homes. Mr Silanon was already fined 150,000 kips (£8) by the village chief for his Christian faith on March 3.
CSW also has a copy of an official letter of expulsion signed by a Laotian government official relating to a separate incident. It reads: ìThe chief of the village Donsung, Udomsouk sub-district, Sanamchai district, Attopue province, has issued this letter of expulsion to one of his villagers, because she got married to a man who had adopted the [Christian] religion. Therefore, the peopleís organization of the village met and came to a unanimous agreement to have her leave the village along with her husband because the villagers do not want anybody of the [Christian] religion here.î
International attention has been very effective in reducing the persecution of believers in Laos in the last few years and CSW has asked its supporters to contact their MPs and MEPs to urge them to raise concerns about religious freedom in Laos.
Alexa Papadouris, CSW Advocacy Director, said: ìThese latest threats against Christians in Laos are deeply concerning. That Christians should be threatened with death and have their means of livelihood confiscated simply for standing true to their religious convictions is an outrage. We have been encouraged by progress over religious freedom in Laos over the last year, but these recent incidents are a serious setback and a reminder of the vulnerability of Christians to drastic and arbitrary treatment for adhering to their faith.î
Christians in Laos have been subject to a particularly harsh wave of persecution since 1998. Many have been imprisoned and widespread pressure and persecution has been implemented across the country. Believers have been coerced and forced to sign forms abandoning their religion. Some have been forced to prove that they have given up their faith by participating in animist rituals, smoking and drinking alcohol and blood. International attention has helped bring about a reduction in the pressure on believers, but persecution continues and has been especially harsh in Attapeu of late.