Lao Christians evicted from their homes in Luang Namtha province's Long district are shown in a February 2020 photo. (Photo: RFA)
More than a dozen Christian families along with a pastor were forcibly evicted from a Buddhist-majority village in northwestern Laos allegedly over their conversion to Christianity recently, says a report.
The villagers have driven out a total of 15 Christian families and a pastor in the ethnic Ahka-inhabited Mai village in Luang Namtha province of Laos, Radio Free Asia(RFA) reported on Feb. 10.
The efforts from the government agencies to resolve the issue through discussions have failed and the evicted villagers remain homeless, an unnamed Christian told RFA on the condition of anonymity.
“Today officials from the Lao Front for National Development office here in Luang Namtha province and other related sectors summoned the Christian families and the village leader to try to solve the conflict among them, but there’s no progress,” the source said.
The affected families have declined to comment on their plight over fears of reprisal.
The government authorities have also refused to speak about the incident to the press calling it “a sensitive issue” while stating that they were “still working on the case,” RFA reported.
Despite having a national law that protects the practice of religious faith among its citizens, Christians are considered second-class citizens and discriminated against at various levels as Christianity is viewed as an alien religion and detrimental to traditional animist practices.
The latest incident has also brought to light allegations from Christians that discrimination is rampant even in government aid distributions.
“Authorities would buy necessities to help the poor, but they would only give them out if the Christians would renounce their faith,” says another Christian from northern Laos who requested anonymity for security reasons, RFA reported.
“They would say that Christianity is a foreign religion, the religion of Westerners who are our enemies, even though the Christians do not agree that they are our enemies,” the unnamed Christian further added.
However, an unnamed official from the northern regional office of the Lao Front for National Development denied the allegation that the organization targets Christians alleging that issues arise from local conflicts between Christians and other communities.
“We do not forbid them to believe Christianity, but some Christian believers use Christianity in the wrong way against the rules and regulations of villages,” the official said.
The official further added that conflict occurs when the villagers convert to Christianity and “do not participate in ethnic festivals or ceremonies and they spread Christianity to other communities,” RFA reported.
Despite the government’s denial of any mistreatment of Christians in the land-locked Communist-ruled nation, news agencies and NGOs have reported multiple cases of abuse dished out to Christians because of their faith.
The authorities from Luang Prabang province’s Xieng Ngeun district confiscated the ID, passport, and village registration cards of an ethnic minority Christian family in August 2022.
They were asked to renounce their Christian faith to get their documents back.
In October 2022, Sy Seng Manee, 48, an Evangelical pastor from Khammouane province was found dead and his body showed signs that he had been tortured before his death. Authorities have not yet arrested any suspect.
In February 2022, attackers burned the house of a Christian ethnic family in Savannakhet province. This case too remains unsolved.
In October 2020, authorities destroyed the homes of seven Christians in Saravan Province’s Ta Oy District for refusing to recant their faith and expelled them from the village.
Laos is ranked 26th among the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian on the 2022 World Watch List by the global Christian rights group, Open Doors.
Open Doors estimates Christians account for about 203,000 or 2.8 percent out of the total population of 7.2 million.