“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. … if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.”
(1 Peter 4:14, 16)
The Lao government has approved the constitution of the Lao Evangelical Church (LEC), in effect giving its churches the freedom to share the gospel freely in the country.
The Minister of Home Affairs signed the document, which includes a statement that church workers have the right to travel, meet together for worship, and evangelise non-Christians. According to Stand Asia’s sources, since the document includes the statement that evangelisation is part of the churches’ mandate, the authorities should not stop Christian meetings or arrest believers for sharing the gospel. The impact of this document is likely to be freedom to believers and transformation of the lives of many Christians.
The LEC president has started meeting provincial officials and local Christian leaders in each of the provinces to explain the LEC constitution and its significance.
Nevertheless, Lao authorities continue to persecute and arrest believers on flimsy charges. According to reports, officials are twisting a number of issues to make Christians look bad. The police have also apparently threatened to arrest all Christians.
In early August, police arrested Grandfather Ter in May district, Phongsaly province and prohibited him from sharing the gospel. Grandfather Ter is the first Akha to be arrested by the police for his Christian faith. The oldest of three brothers who returned to their village after detox and rehab, he was the first among them to turn to the Lord. This is the first arrest of a believer among the Akha people, so it’s a potentially critical time for God’s people in their area.
There have been other such incidents. On 17 August, police arrested Achan Bounkeo when he went to the market to buy lunch. On 3 July, police arrested four Christian leaders in central Laos, because they conducted a Christian funeral in a mainly spirit-worshipping village. The authorities took them to the district prison and later transferred them to the provincial town prison. Local Christians cannot visit them but can take food to them. On 15 March, a detained Christian pastor was sentenced to six months in prison. This prison term is likely to end in mid-September.
Laos has imposed tight border controls to restrict the spread of the coronavirus. Many Christian expatriate workers have not been able to return to Laos because of travel restrictions.
Christians make up just three percent of the population and are a small minority. Christianity, in particular, is considered a Western influence and especially dangerous. Conversion to Christianity can be seen as a betrayal to the family and Lao culture. Despite setbacks and ongoing persecution, the Lao church continues to grow at a purported six percent every year.
- Pray for the LEC president, as he meets local officials and Christian leaders to explain the government-approved LEC constitution and its significance. Pray that the meetings will have a deep impact throughout the country.
- Pray for arrested Christians and their families, including Grandfather Ter, Achan Bounkeo, the four Christian leaders arrested in central Laos, and the Christian pastor sentenced to six months in jail. Pray for strength and wisdom for them to face and respond to their situations.
- Pray for believers among the Akha in the May district of Phongsaly province. May God strengthen the believers in this time of trial and the authorities come to know God through the testimonies of these believers as they stand firm.
- Pray for Christian expatriate workers who have not been able to return to Laos because of travel restrictions due to COVID-19.