By BosNewsLife Asia Service
VENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)– Authorities in northern Laos have given 10 Christian families till March 18 to recent their faith in Christ or face expulsion from their village, a group representing the believers told BosNewsLife Friday, February March 2.
Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) said the families in Hueygong Village, located in the Pakoo District of Luangprabang province, received the order February 18, but added that they continue to worship in the home of their local Christian leader, Jar-Ngang.
HRWLRF added that “eight of the ten families became Christians three months ago” and that in total some 65 Christian villagers are threatened with expulsion. “Local Christians nearby are uncertain whether officials will use force to follow through with the order,” the group said.
Prior to the order, district officials reportedly said Christians first “need permission” from local officials to be Christian and report to them the number of believers and churches in the area.
Among those deciding on whether someone can become a Christian is the district chief, a district religious affairs official and the secretary of the regional Communist party, investigators said.
Evangelical Christians argue that no such permission is needed as it is only through Jesus Christ that someone can become a Christian, citing the Bible where as He says he is “the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
HEWLRF said Christians in the region were also threatened with expulsion early last month, but a the head of the province’s religious affairs, Bousee Chantuma, reportedly prevented that from happening citing judicial reasons.
It was not immediately clear whether Chantuma would be able to prevent the planned expulsion on March 18. The HRWLRF said it had urged the Lao government to respect the constitution and international agreements allowing religious freedom. There about 200,000 devoted Christians in the Communist-run Asian nation, where most of the 6.4 million people are Buddhists, according to Christian estimates. Lao officials have denied human rights abuses against minorities.
The Asian nation is viewed as one of the world’s few remaining Communist states and one of east Asia’s poorest nations, though it has announced plans to increase foreign investments.