The evangelical pastor was threatened to stop religious activities before he was kidnapped and murdered
A social media post shows Lao Christian preacher Sy Seng Manee praying (left) and his coffin being lowered into the ground. (Photo: RFA via Twitter)
Christians in Laos have expressed frustrations over alleged police inaction in the probe and failure to arrest the culprits over the brutal murder of an Evangelical pastor in October.
A district-level official responsible for religious affairs said he was unaware of the case and that the police have made no notable progress so far, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Dec. 12.
“They must be working on it,” said the unnamed official said.
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Pastor Sy Seng Manee, 48, was found dead near his motorbike in a forest area near the road to Donkeo village in Khammouane province on Oct. 23. An unnamed witness said that he had seen three men in an unmarked black truck drag the pastor in and speed off on Oct. 20.
Eyewitnesses also stated that two men visited his house earlier that day and a family member said that village authorities had earlier warned him to cease all his religious activities.
The lack of progress has been unnerving for the local Christian community in Khammouane province who feel that the police have not taken the matter seriously, RFA reported.
“Since the murder, we are fearful for our safety because the suspect is on the loose,” said a Christian who declined to be named.
“We think the police are not very serious about the investigation or searching for the suspect in this case, because the victim is a Christian,” he further added.
Another Christian said he fears that the suspects who are still on the loose “may harm other Christians as well.”
The fear of violent attacks and death is so immense among Christians that they have resorted to traveling in pairs.
Another Christian felt that the attacks are purely based on hatred towards the Christian faith and its activities.
“They’re cracking down on us because of our religion. We’ve been told to stop our activities, and Pastor Sy was murdered because he went out by himself, all alone,” said the Christian who did not wish to be named due to safety reasons.
A law enacted in 2019 assures Christians and other faiths in Laos the freedom to conduct services, preach throughout the country, and maintain contact with believers in other nations.
The law also stipulates that churches should themselves fund their operations, and obey any other Lao laws, rules, and regulations.
Despite having legal freedom to practice their religion, Christians in the land-locked Communist-ruled nation often face sanctions at varied levels from local authorities. Locals consider Christianity as an alien religion and detrimental to their traditional animist practices.
Christians in the more cosmopolitan capital Vientiane and other larger cities can practice their faith freely, yet this is not the case in many rural communities where officials often act against Christians with relative impunity.
Meanwhile, Bounthone Chanthalavong-Wiese, president of the Germany-based Alliance for Democracy in Laos stated that his organization is calling on the international community to “put more pressure on the Lao government to respect and protect the religious freedom of the Lao people.”
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.
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