Laos

Christianity is viewed as a 'Western ideology' in Laos, and those who adhere to it are considered to be foreign agents and enemies. So Laotian believers must be extremely cautious.

Lao People's Democratic Republic

World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
19 71/100
Leader Population
President Bounnhang Vorachith 6.9 million | 225,000 Christians
Main Religion Government
Buddhism Communist State
WWL Rank in 2018 Persecution Level
20 Very High Persecution

In this Communist nation, Christianity is branded as a Western influence. Believers are often seen as a threat to the government and officials use society’s hostile attitude towards Christians to justify monitoring and harassing believers.

Persecution is more common in rural areas and mostly comes from one’s family and community. All gatherings are seen as dangerous by local authorities, and must first receive approval from the government. For Christians, this means their meetings are often hindered or declared illegal. Some church meetings have to be conducted in secret.

Believers who abandon tribal customs for Christianity are treated as outsiders. They are watched with suspicion and closely monitored. Sometimes new Christians are even expelled from their homes and forced to live in the jungle for months, even years, before relocating to safety.

PERSECUTION IN LAOS

"I cannot go back to my village. Every time I go, someone calls the police," said Mei Mei,* a believer from Laos. After becoming a Christian, Mei shared the Gospel with five young people who all became Christians. "Because of this, they are expelled from the village by their own parents and the head of the village."

The young believers now stay with Mei in exile at a village six hours away from home. "A lot of times, I cry because of guilt," continues Mei. "I feel like it is my fault that these young people are suffering.

"There is no church in our village. There are also no Christians in other villages because the villagers themselves don't allow Christianity to exist. My family members want to accept Jesus Christ, but they are afraid of what the government will do. Currently, there are ten Christians in my village, but they don't reveal their identity because they are afraid. Pray that God will give them the courage to live out their faith."

The national identity of Laotians is inextricably linked to Buddhism. This makes it common for Christians like Mei to be expelled from their villages, and even tortured and imprisoned by their neighbours, relatives, and local officials for choosing to follow Jesus Christ - particularly in tribal areas.

Communities practising animism also see Christianity as a foreign element that may anger the spirits who protect the village. In one village, authorities tried to force Christians to worship ancestors and swear an oath to animist spirits, thereby demonstrating 'loyalty, innocence, and submission' to their leadership.

In order to keep everything under control, the country's Communist party puts enormous pressure on the small Christian minority. Elections in March 2016 led to significant power transfers within the government, but little is expected to change for believers. Seen as 'foreign agents', Christianity is viewed as a Western ideology that challenges Communism.

However, the main challenge for Christians comes from the country's local authorities who regard Christians as enemies. Believers must take extreme care when talking about their faith for fear of harassment, eviction and even arrest.

* Name changed for security reasons

HOW WE HELP

Through local partners and churches, Open Doors strengthens persecuted believers in Laos through:

  • Provision of Christian materials
  • Leadership training
  • Discipleship programmes
  • Coming alongside the Laotian believers when they suffer physical attacks and expulsion from their families and communities, through advocacy, relief and practical aid.

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PRAYER POINTS FOR LAOS

  • That Christians would have wisdom to know how to witness to their Buddhist neighbours and family members
  • That Christians in Laos would be able to freely access Bibles and register churches, and that Christian children in Buddhist schools would not be discriminated against
  • For increased openness and acceptance in Laos towards Christianity.
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