What does persecution look like in Laos?
The Communist authorities of Laos consider most church meetings 'illegal gatherings', and Christians live under intense scrutiny.
In Laos, some churches are registered and heavily monitored, but others cannot get permission to meet and have to operate secretly. Even among the government-approved churches, few have permanent buildings of their own and have to meet in homes. Christians are generally viewed as Western-influenced 'enemies of the state'.
The leaders of unregistered churches have been arrested and held for as long as a year; their families and churches have to pay huge sums of money for their release. In most cases, local authorities are the source of persecution, frequently cooperating with the community and families.
Christians face discrimination in the workplace, and may be barred from or lose their government jobs when their faith becomes known. The lack of educational and professional opportunities has contributed to Christian boys and men getting ensnared in drug addictions. Pastors in northern Laos say that Christian girls are increasingly targeted as brides to be trafficked into China.
People from the Buddhist-animist community who become Christians face pressure and violence from their families and the local authorities. The community often gets stirred up against them, until the new believers are expelled from their home village.
Who is most vulnerable to persecution?
Any Christians outside of registered churches are at particular risk in Laos. The local authorities in some provinces are determined to silence any Christian voice.
“There are times when I feel like it’s me against the world and that the Lord has not provided me with people. But God sends people. He used your ministry.”Sop, a persecuted Christian who used literacy classes to help change their community's opinion
What has changed this year?
The situation for Christians in Laos has not changed very much. While churches have a bit more freedom in urban areas, such as the capital Vientiane, Christians in rural areas are generally seen as outsiders or even traitors. They are often believed to anger the spirits who, according to local beliefs, can determine the village's prosperity. Officials in the capital are increasingly receiving training on the importance of freedom of religion or belief, but this is not having an impact on local authorities. In October 2022, the news of the killing of a pastor in Khammouane province shocked the Christian community.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Laos?
Open Doors local partners strengthen persecuted believers in Laos by providing Christian materials, leadership and discipleship training, socio-economic development programmes, advocacy support and emergency relief.
How can you pray for Laos?
- Please pray that Christians would be able to meet together without detection and surveillance
- Pray for an end to the unjust fines charged to release detained Christians
- Pray that whole villages would come to know Christ through new believers.
Lord Jesus, give Your children in Laos strength to stand firm against the pressure many of them are facing. We pray that Christians would meet together and encourage one another, undetected by the surveillance of the state. Guard and strengthen the faith of house churches whose pastors are detained. When village members come to know You, we pray that their neighbours would be amazed by their stories instead of driving them away, and that many more would come to know Your freedom in this restrictive country. Amen.