Friday, November 30, 2012

Christians in Laos Resist Severe Pressures to Recant Faith

I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for their bravery in refusing to renounce their Lord. I pray that God will give me the same sort of strength.

11/27/2012 Laos (International Christian Response)- In Lao villages far from the international community’s eye, Christians who refuse to take part in traditions involving worship of ancestral spirits face severe pressures. Authorities in southern Laos recently tried to force more than 200 Christians in six villages in Savannakhet Province to convert back to traditional, ethnic religion by ordering them to take part in the rituals. None of the Christians gave in to threats of expulsion, according to Human Rights Watch for Laos Religious Freedom (HRWLRF).

Police called a meeting of three villages in Kengsaiyai village, Phin district, on Oct. 19 and ordered about 150 Christians from 31 families to take an oath and drink “sacred water” dedicated to spirits as part of the ritual, HRWLRF reported. Officials also told them to sign a document stating that they had converted back to their traditional religion and threatening to expel them from their villages if they refused. All the Christians refused to deny Christ, and authorities have backed off, said an HRWLRF official.

“The Christians are no longer threatened with eviction if they deny participation in the occult rituals,” he told Morning Star News.

Local authorities stopped pressuring Christians after some Christian families approached the governor of Savannakhet and the Lao National Assembly office in the province, he explained. Separately, authorities in the same district’s Vongseekaew village on Oct. 5 pressured about 50 Christians to participate in a similar ritual and profess belief in the traditional religion in order to continue living in the village. But four days later, the administrative head of the district intervened, warning police and military officials against forcing anyone to perform the ritual.
The official’s warning had no effect five miles away in Allowmai village. Police told Christians in the village that the Sept. 11 incarceration of three pastors – identified only as Bountert, Adang and Onkaew – would be extended for three years if they did not forsake Christianity.

After family members of Adang and Onkeaw approached higher officials, the three pastors were released, the HRWLRF official said. Moreover, authorities have turned away from pressuring Christians in the district to participate in the ritual, he said.

“Local officials instructed villagers to live in harmony with each other and [ensure that] occult rituals were not enforced on Christians any longer,” he said.

Christians in Seekaew village of Jutsume sub-district also have been pressured to convert back to traditional religions, HRWLRF reported. Two local officials, identified only as Bounheung and Boungong, have also threatened to demolish houses belonging to the Christians(Source).

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