Communist and post-communist oppression
President Bounnhang Vorachit
Christian freedom in Laos is severely curtailed by the intense monitoring of the Communist authorities.
House churches that do not have administrative approval are considered “illegal gatherings” and must operate underground. Even the majority of registered churches do not have permanent church structures and must conduct worship services in homes.
The brunt of persecution is reserved for converts to Christianity, who are deemed guilty of betraying the Buddhist-animist traditions of their community. They frequently face pressure and violence from their families and the local authorities, both of whom will stir up opposition from the local community or religious leaders. This can lead to converts being expelled from the village.
Soy was imprisoned at age 14, along with other believers. They refused to deny Jesus when pressured by the authorities. After being released, Soy encountered further challenges; she was bullied at school and her teachers ignored her.
“After I accepted Jesus Christ, I felt like a normal person. My heart and soul were completely healed! However, my happiness was crushed because of harsh persecution. My friends and my non-believing cousins hate me and say mean things to me.”
Despite Laos dropping four places on the World Watch List, the situation for Christians remains largely unchanged. While fewer Christians were arrested compared to last year, an increasing number of converts are being displaced from their homes as they face rejection by their villages. The pandemic also made gathering information more difficult, so the reality may be more severe than reported.
Provinces such as Luang Namtha, Phongsaly and Houphan in the north, and Khammuane and Savannakhet in the south, have traditionally been difficult places for Christians to live. The local authorities in these areas still seem determined to silence Christian witness.
Open Doors works through local partners to strengthen persecuted believers in Laos by providing Christian materials, leadership and discipleship training, socio-economic development programs, advocacy support and emergency relief.