By BosNewsLife Asia Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos
VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)-- Some 50 Christians in central Laos faced imminent expulsion from their homes Friday, September 6, for refusing to recant their faith in Christ, representatives told BosNewsLife.
The Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) group said the chief of Nongdaeng village in Bolikhamsai province "summoned representatives" of 11 Christian families to appear before an official meeting at local government headquarters where they were told to abandon Christianity or face deportation.
"In the meeting, officials ordered all 11 families, consisting of 50 individuals, to recant of their Christian faith and return to their traditional animist religion," explained HRWLRF, which is in close contact with the believers.
"They charged these Lao Christians with believing the religion of a foreign Western power which is considered destructive to the Lao nation."
CHRISTIAN FAITH BANNED
Officials reportedly said that the "Christian faith can not be adhered to or practiced" in Nongdaeng.
"They are still facing eviction," HRWLRF Director Sirikoon Prasertsee told BosNewsLife. "There is no change in their situation," he added.
Though the order took "effect immediately" on August 30, and Christians were given three days to abide by the ruling, believers continued to worship last Sunday, September 1, in one of their homes, BosNewsLife learned.
Lao Christians reportedly told local officials "they have religious rights and protection under the Lao constitution to practice their faith in Nongdaeng."
This isn't an isolated incident, BosNewsLife established in Laos. Several devoted Christians who openly worship are known to have been detained in several parts of the Communist-run nation.
Tensions rose in Nongdaeng after several people accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, according to Christians with close knowledge about the situation.
In April, "three Lao Christian families began worshiping God in their homes in Nongdaeng village" after they were traveling to Nonsomboon village for worship, which is about 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) away, HRWLRF said.
Soon after, "eight other families in Nongdaeng became interested in the Christian faith and decided to embrace Christianity themselves, resulting in a total of 11 Christian families", the group added.
The HRWLRF explained that it has urged the government to allow the Christians in Nongdaeng "to believe in the Christian faith" as their "right to decide the religion of their choice should be respected."
In addition, the HRWLRF said it had asked the authorities to "punish officials, including the village chief, for illegally issuing an eviction order that has now brought hardship to the lives as well as defamation of the name and honor of Nongdaeng villagers who are Christians."
The Communist nation of 6.6 million is 67 percent Buddhist and 2 percent Christian with Catholics comprising 0.7 percent of the population, according to Catholic estimates.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).
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