Lao Christians Praised and Persecuted

Friday, January 24, 2003

January 24, 2003

Washington, D.C. (Christian Aid) -- In a country where Christians are roundly despised and persecuted, Lao officials recently awarded certificates of recognition to two church groups for competing in local athletic events.

On December 2, a local church in Savannakhet Province finished third in a volleyball tournament conducted in Savannakhet on Lao National Day. The open participation of this team of believers encouraged Christians across the country where churches have been closed and believers suppressed.

"Most Lao people in Savannakhet thought that evangelical Christians had been eradicated," the leader of a Lao Christian ministry told Christian Aid. "It surprised the Lao people attending the sporting event that evangelical Christians are still alive and active in Laos. Our ministry helped the Lao evangelical team with meals, transportation, uniforms and shoes so that they could compete in the tournament."

Later, on December 12, evangelical believers in Nakham village (Songkorn District, Savannakhet Province), officially represented the Songkorn District in the provincial competition on the birthday of Kysorn Phomvihan, the founder of Communist Laos, and took second place. District officials actually went to the evangelical church in Nakham to present the second-place certificate to the Christian team. The recognition was especially significant in the face of heavy persecution during the last three years.

In that time the Songkorn Church had actually lost its building. The leaders had been forced to recant their faith and stood by while authorities nailed shut the doors to their building. However, last month the church reopened its doors and more than 700 Christians from outside Songkorn District gathered there to celebrate Christmas. Songkorn Church is the oldest church in Southern Laos, and possibly in the whole country.

At the same time, persecution is alive and well in Communist Laos. Fifteen women from Khamsaan Church and two leaders from Savannakhet Church went to celebrate Christmas with Christians in Dongpoong on December 26. Early in the morning on December 27, local officials arrested the 17 women and put them in jail, releasing them the next day. They told the women if they said anything about the arrests, they would be considered betrayers of their country. The same authorities then arrested nine more Christians on the same day and detained them for nine days. The believers were from Dongpoon, Dongpyvan, Gengveng and Nadeng villages, and included grandparents about 75 years old.

Again, on January 10, six believers in Pongseema village were arrested for taking part in a Christmas service at their church. They were fined the equivalent of $12 and released.

On January 15, five women were arrested for holding a Christmas service in the village of Kengkok, Champon District. All five were released the next day, but on that very same day the same authorities arrested six more believers from Kengkok village on the same charge. They are still being held in the Jampon District Prison as this article is being written. For some of them, this is the 5th or 6th time they have been arrested for practicing their faith.

"The main reason authorities in Champon and Sayburi Districts are still exerting heavy persecution on Christians is that they are trying to save face," the ministry leader told Christian Aid. "They had previously reported to the Lao central authorities that Christianity had been successfully eliminated from their districts, but now Christians were starting to hold Christmas meetings and services all over these two districts."

"We ask that you would continue petitioning our Heavenly Father for Christians in Laos," the leader said, "especially for the six believers from Kengkok village."

The Lao Christians have found that sponsoring or participating in sports events allows them to present themselves before the public in an acceptable manner. This is crucial in a country where many are led to think Christians don't exist or that they are some kind of weird monster people. When they compete against military and police teams and those from other schools, their competitors learn that they are human beings just as they are. The likelihood is lessened that they will treat the Christians in cruel and inhumane ways, although this cannot be guaranteed.

Church teams need help in procuring sports equipment and even vehicles for participating in sports events. For more information, write to and put MI-403 730-CFL on the subject line.