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2021 WORLD WATCH LIST #22

LAOS

 

Country rank

22

Persecution score

70.53

Last year’s rank

20

Region

Asia

Persecution Type

Clan oppression (Very strong), Communist and post-Communist oppression (Very strong), Dictatorial paranoia (Strong)

Persecution Level

Very High

Population

7,165,000

Christians

199,000 (2.8%) Data source: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed February 2020).

Main Religion

Buddhism

Government

Communist state

Leader

President Bounnhang Vorachit

Open Doors supports the persecuted church in Laos through:
• Christian literature distribution
• Leadership training
• Discipleship programs
• Practical aid

ABOUT LAOS

What does persecution look like in Laos?

Christian activities are heavily monitored by the communist authorities, including those of registered churches. Especially in rural areas, house churches are forced to meet underground as they are considered “illegal gatherings.”

Life is especially difficult for converts to the Christian faith, who are at risk of persecution from their family and the local authorities. This can involve damage to property, confiscation of possessions and issuing of fines.

Opposition is heightened when a convert’s family or the local authorities stir up the local community against them, sometimes through local village meetings or by seeking the support of local religious leaders.  

How women experience persecution

There are several ways in which Christian women are targeted for both their faith and gender. They face the danger of being beaten, raped and sexually harassed. There is the risk of social isolation and arranged marriage among Lao tribal groups, with the latter aimed at getting Christians to renounce their faith. 
Women can also suffer greatly when their husband is arrested and detained for his faith. This brings financial pressure, since the husband tends to be the breadwinner, as well as emotional stress. It can be even more challenging if the village chief evicts the family from the community. 

How men experience persecution

Church leadership in Laos tends to be dominated by men, a role which makes them vulnerable to persecution. They can face imprisonment in harsh and degrading conditions, and be asked to pay a huge fine to secure their release, putting financial pressure on families and churches. The absence of a leader also weakens churches spiritually and evokes fear.

Christian men are also susceptible to hostility and unfair treatment in the workplace. They can be overlooked for government and military jobs, or even lose their job altogether. Those in military training are conditioned to give their sole allegiance to the communist party and hate their enemies – which, viewed as a Western and unwelcome religion, includes Christianity.  

What has changed this year?

Laos has dropped two places to No. 22 on the 2021 World Watch List. This shows a marginal reduction in opposition to Christianity, reflected in the fact the government started a training program on freedom of religion and belief for local authorities. If this will lead to improvements at the grassroots level remains to be seen. Regardless, it will not change family and community opposition against converts, so Laos remains an enormously challenging country in which to follow Jesus.   

Who is most vulnerable to persecution?

Provinces in the north (where the Hmong minority is concentrated) and Khammuane, Phongsaly and Savannakhet in the south have traditionally been difficult places for Christians to live. The local authorities in these areas still seem intent on removing any Christian witness. 

How can I help Christians in Laos?

What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Laos?

Through local church partners, Open Doors strengthens persecuted believers in Laos by providing Christian materials, leadership and discipleship training, socio-economic development programs, advocacy support, emergency relief and practical aid. 

Your gift today will show our persecuted brothers and sisters in Laos, and other countries in the World Watch List they are loved and remembered by you.

Pray

– Give thanks for the growth of the church in Laos; pray that God will continue to use His people to bring more people knowledge of Jesus’ love.
– Pray that believers under pressure to recant their faith will have strength to stand firm.
– Pray for families and churches left without the support and leadership of a husband and/or leader; pray that all their needs will be met and that it would be an opportunity for others to grow and thrive. 

A PRAYER FOR LAOS

Lord Jesus, give Your people strength to endure persecution, and grace to love and forgive their persecutors. May local and national authorities see Christians not as a threat but as valuable members of society. Continue to open the eyes of Laotians to the life-giving faith of their Christian neighbors. May Your kingdom come in Laos. Amen.