“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed,
but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down,
but not destroyed.”
(2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NIV)
(Photo courtesy of a citizen journalist)
A Christian family in southern Laos has recently been persecuted and physically attacked in spite of religious freedom protected and guaranteed by a national law in the country.
In February, villagers of Dong Savanh in Phalanxay district of Savannakhet province attacked mourners and pallbearers who were attempting to bury their Christian patriarch in their own rice field. Seng Aloun, the widow of the deceased, said an angry mob turned up and beat family members and participants, and even attacked the coffin with clubs. Other villagers then torched their home and at least 12 family members were driven out and forced to flee and take shelter with relatives.
Seng Aloun said this attack was the latest in a string of assaults on the family by villagers as well as local authorities. When her husband passed away last December, they refused his burial in the village cemetery. They also struck his coffin with wooden sticks and hit their family members.
Seng Aloun posted videos on social media to show what had happened at the cemetery and appealed for help. Police who investigated the attacks at the two attempted burials asked her to remove the posts. Then on 15 March, district authorities invited her and some other members of the local Christian church to the office of the Phalanxay City Problem Resolution Committee to discuss the conflict between the family and Dong Savanh village officials.
However, one local Christian leader reported, “At the meeting, the district authorities again demanded the family take down the posts and the videos of the burned home and the attack on the coffin, or to make changes to the posts.” One proposed change was to imply that someone else had burned down their home and not the village chief. However, the authorities have neither interrogated nor investigated the village chief about the fire and the seizure of the family’s farmland.
A member of the Lao Evangelical Church in Savannakhet province has said that he was worried about Seng Aloun’s family, because according to him, authorities do not honour the Lao government’s legal protection for Christians: “In Savannakhet province, authorities at all levels from villages to the province have attended seminars and been informed about the Law on the Evangelical Church which spells out all the rights, rules and regulations concerning Christians. But the problem is that many village authorities won’t comply. It’s like they know the rules, but they don’t follow them.”
The family has refused to delete or make any changes to the social media posts and said they would file a complaint with the provincial and central governments. As Seng Aloun is raising her children alone in the forest outside the village, she hopes that district officials can help find the arsonist and the conflict can be resolved soon.
The law protecting religious freedom came into effect in December 2019 and gives Lao Christians the right to conduct services, to preach throughout the country, and to maintain contact with believers in other countries.
Home Group Prayer:
Dear Father God,
We pray for the believers in Laos who face the threat of physical harm and persecution from all fronts. We ask for your divine protection to cover them and shield them from attack, be it physical, legal, verbal or spiritual.
We ask for authorities to uphold and respect the law that is designed to enforce religious freedom and for Lao Christians to be able to live and worship freely without fear or oppression.
We pray especially for Seng Aloun, her children and her family members who have been displaced from their own homes, that there will be a swift resolution in the face of their grief and that they will be able to give their husband and father a proper burial without further attack.
We pray for your divine intervention in this tragic situation and ask for Seng Aloun and her family members to be able to return safely to their home soon.
In Jesus’ name, amen!