Crackdown on Lao Churches Continues

Friday, November 2, 2001

Last church in Songkorn District targeted for closing

Lao authorities are pressing toward their goal of completely shutting down Christianity in their Communist regime.

The leader of a group of churches in Laos notified Christian Aid today that Lao authorities confiscated the Saybangnoun Church Saturday after Christians refused to surrender the facility to them Saturday noon. The church was located in Songkorn district, Savannakhet Province. The Christians gathered and worshiped in tears outside their confiscated church building Sunday.

The three main leaders of the Saybangnoun Church said they were willing to go to prison for their faith, according to the report received from the field by Christian Aid Mission of Charlottesville, Va., an organization that sends assistance to some 600 indigenous ministries around the world.

The Lao source, whose name is withheld for security purposes, said that the church-closing team left Saybangnoun heading for Nakham Church about two miles down the road.

"The leaders of that church, are also ready to be imprisoned for Christ," the contact said. All five leaders of these two churches were personally trained by the man sending the report, who said that eight Christians from that province are already imprisoned for their faith. In July, the World Evangelical Fellowship Religious Liberty Commission reported 32 Christians imprisoned for their faith throughout Laos, and 59 churches closed in the preceding 18 months.

According to one observer, who wishes to remain anonymous, Lao authorities know they are acting in direct contradiction to their country's constitution, which guarantees freedom for Christians to assemble and to worship. It is their belief that Christianity is a foreign religion since it was brought to their country by the French and Americans. People who follow Christianity are therefore considered enemies of the state.

The Lao source said that authorities plan to close the church in Savannekht City on the 20th of this month, which is the last remaining church in Savannakhet Province. If they do, that will be the culmination of a campaign begun three years ago to close every church in the province.

"They will probably do it," the observer said. "Last week we received a report that they were going to close down the Saybangnoun Church after they got back from the boat races on the 8th-and they did."

Media Personnel: For more information contact Stephen Van Valkenburg, Christian Aid Mission's Southeast Asia Division Director at 434-977-5650 ext 3104, or e-mail . Please put "Lao Crackdown" in the subject line.