Police Invade Discipleship Class
Imagine facing daily threats of imprisonment and threats of expulsion. These are pressures that Christians in three provinces in northern Laos have been struggling with for the past three months. James 1:-4 says, “…for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”This is a verse that speaks into the lives of these believers. On December 2013, police officers in an undisclosed village (in Luang Prabang Province) summoned pastor Toang*, after they received reports that he was holding a ‘political’ meeting. But the pastor was conducting a discipleship class for his congregants. His residential documents were revoked, and Toang was forced to return to his former village. “He is under investigation,” said a local source, unnamed for security reasons. “We are waiting for what’s going to happen next.” Two other churches in another village in Luang Prabang were also placed under investigation. “When the villagers started believing in Jesus Christ,” the same source said, “the officials began to pressure them to return to their old (animistic) practices.” The local authorities gave the believers an ultimatum to recant their faith, or they would be kicked out of the village. At least six Christian families, or about 30 believers, could lose their homes if the village officials had made good on their word. In Bokeo, another province in northern Laos, local believer, Bane*, was recently placed under house arrest after relatives reported his religious conversion to officials. The believer had been invited to people’s houses to pray for the sick. Many of them were healed and about six families believed in Jesus Christ as a result. In prison, the guards forced Bane to pay for his food as a way of pressuring him to recant his faith. He refused. “It’s a rule in Laotian prisons for inmates to pay for their food during their term,” Open Doors’ source said. “But Bane insisted that he had done nothing wrong, so he would not pay for his food. The police also warned him about going to houses and praying for the sick people. They told him to do it in the streets if he insisted on continuing.” Bane was steadfast. He defended his ‘Christian’ act by saying that it was no different from what the village shamans were doing. Unable to break his will, the police released Bane after 10 days of incarceration. “Their pastor is now looking for a place where they can stay,” said the local contact. Two years ago, police officers in the area confiscated the believers’ identity cards and have not returned them since. Open Doors strengthens the believers in Laos in tangible ways through discipleship programs, and practical aid. Laos is 21st on Open Doors’ World Watch List, an annual ranking of countries where the Christians face the most persecution. Will you join us in prayer for Laos, and for Christians who live here, like pastor Toang and Bane? *Names have been changed and some details withheld for the security of the believers mentioned in this article.