Part of the South East Asian peninsular, Laos is one of the poorer and underdeveloped countries in the world. Becoming a French colony in the late 1800s it gained its independence in 1953 under a monarchy. This independence was soon followed by a protracted civil war between the monarchy backed by the United States and the Communist Pathet Lao backed by the Soviet Union. It was not concluded until the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 with the Pathet Lao seizing power.
Buddhism has been the main religion there for over a thousand years, mixed with ethnic-animism among the hill tribes.
With a population of some 7 million people, Christians form around 3% or nearly 200,000 people. Since the Communist forces took control, regulations for all citizens, and especially Christians, has been tightened significantly. This includes registration of churches, control over church activities (including holding services), discipleship, and the supply of Bibles and Christian literature. There are three main Christian groups. The Laos Evangelical Church, The Catholic Church, and the Protestant Churches.
Although the constitution upholds freedom of religion, Christianity is viewed as a “Western Import”, and all who adhere to it are looked on with suspicion as possible foreign agents or as betrayers of their country and/or tribe.
The Communist party in Laos maintains close links with Vietnam, North Korea and China, and levels of control and persecution seem to follow the pattern of what happens in those countries, particularly China. With the recent upsurge in regulations and controls on Christians in China there has been a similar increase in Laos.
While government persecution tends to be pressure through administration, licences, permissions, buildings etc., there has been an increase in police raids, arrests, imprisonments and even torture. Also the destruction of Christian literature, Bibles, and IT equipment, and the closure of some churches is becoming more commonplace.
Added to this is the reaction at local and family level, leading to harassment, being disowned by family and being ostracised and expelled from villages.
In spite of this, the churches in Laos continue to grow!!
• Give thanks to God for the growth of the Church in Laos.
• Give thanks for those coming to faith in Jesus Christ and for a strengthening of that faith.
• Pray for a change in attitude of the Communist authorities towards Christians.
• Pray for an increase in openness and acceptance towards Christianity at all levels of society.
• Pray that Christians will have wisdom and discernment on how to witness to their Buddhist and animist neighbours.
• Pray for a strengthening of believers faith in the face of persecution, to stand firm.
• Pray that Christians in Laos will be freely able to have access to Bibles, Christian literature, and to register new churches.
• Pray that discrimination in schools and the workplace will decrease and stop.