by Michael Fischer
HONG KONG (Compass) — Christians in Laos continue to suffer persecution from a government crackdown on believers, and they cannot visit friends or travel freely because the secret police follow them every everywhere. Some have been forced to recant their faith.
"Even when we are in our homes, they are trying to find something against us. If they see us travelling around anywhere, they will arrest us," one believer said in Luang Prabang province.
Christians in Laos are usually arrested on the pretext of illegal activity rather than for their faith. A church leader in Thailand says Christians in Laos are not out to overthrow the government or call for democracy or anything else. They are simple people seeking to worship Jesus and trying to make a living.
Meanwhile, a letter from a Christian in Laos details the persecution in the northern province of Luang Prabang. His name has been withheld for security reasons. The letter says a committee of officials from the provincial, district, and village levels detained 12 Christians from March 11 to April 10 and forced them to sign an affidavit recanting their faith. The believer wrote, "In our group 11 signed the statement. However, I did not agree to sign. In the end, all 11 in our group pleaded with me and I then signed as they did."
Officials told the believers that being a Christian is illegal because Christianity is a lying religion, it violates Lao custom and the Bible teaches deception. They also accused Christians of being enemies of the state and warned them that it was a serious violation of the law if they did not sign forms recanting their faith.
"We have put all things into God's hands and trust that all things will go according to His will," the letter ends.
Meanwhile, Lao authorities released six Christians from Savannakhet jail on May 22. Among those released were Mr. Keonouphan, Mr. Khamsorn, Mr. Khampuag, Mr. Somsay, Mr. Somporn and Mr. Synoun.
In addition, nine other Christians were arrested. Authorities are holding two Khmu Christians in Udomsai province: Boonchan Khunthawong and his wife, Saeng Khum. They were arrested on June 9, 1999, and are being held without a formal trial. Mr. Junpaeng, 38, was arrested on March 20, 1999, from Nah Ngam village and Mr. Jahng, 29, was arrested on April 1, 1999. These four are being held at Nah Mao provincial jail in Udomsai province. In Saiyaburi province, five Khmu were arrested on May 4 for "illegal religious activity." The Christians were attempting to attend a training event.
Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.
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