World Watch List: 20
Leader: President Bounnhang Vorachith
Population: 7 million
Main Religion: Buddhism
Government: Communist State
Source of Persecution: Communist Oppression
Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Laos through:
- Christian literature distribution
- Leadership training
- Discipleship programmes
- Practical aid
“We believe in God but we can’t openly practice our faith. We have to do it in small rooms or behind closed doors. In the cities, they might not get arrested when they celebrate Christmas but in rural areas, the police arrest us and the government makes it difficult for us.”
– Jik, wife of a Laotian pastor
Source of persecution: Ethnic Antagonism / Communist and post-communist oppression / Dictatorial paranoia
Secret police in the church
Laos is one of the five remaining Communist states in the world. All religions are seen as hostile by the regime, but Christianity particularly so as it is linked to the West which is perceived as an enemy. Buddhism and the animist beliefs of the tribes have been accepted as inextricable parts of the people.
All religious activities are monitored and controlled by the authorities, including those of the registered church. Secret police attend church services, count the number of attendees, and take notes of sermons and the proceedings. The government’s consent is required for any religious activity, including converting to another faith and preaching. But church leaders say that permission is rarely granted. House churches are considered ‘illegal gatherings’ and must operate in secret.
Recant or be gone
60% of Laos is rural, occupied by tribal villages where animism and other tribal practices are observed. Believers from Buddhist or animistic backgrounds are considered to have betrayed their communities. When someone in the village converts to Christianity and refuses to participate in animistic rites, it is feared that the guardian spirits of the village will be angered. Thus, village leaders and family members will put pressure on Christians to recant and ultimately, expel them from the village.
Determined to wipe out
In some provinces, local authorities are determined to wipe out any Christian witness from their area. They harass, arrest, and evict Christians from their homes. Pastors and their families are frequently targeted to prevent them from spreading the Christian faith.
- For Christians who have been expelled from their homes and villages for their faith. Pray that God will provide for their needs, and enable them to return home or find a new one.
- For pastors and church leaders who are targeted. Pray that they will have the strength and grace to continue their ministry in the face of hostilities, and also for protection over their families.
- That the village leaders and local officials who persecute Christians will have an encounter with Jesus and come to a saving knowledge of Him.