By Vatican News staff writer
Local authorities in the Saravan province of Laos have thrown out seven Christians from their homes for refusing to renounce their faith. These Christians are now forced to live in the open and in the surrounding forests despite a national law protecting their free exercise of religion.
The law, enacted on 19 December, allows Laotian Christians the right to conduct services and preach throughout the country. However, Laotian churches must fund their own operations and obey the country’s laws.
According to local reports, the seven Christians were expelled from their homes on 10 October. They are members of two families from the village of Pasing-Kang in the Ta-Oesy district in Saravan, located in the South of Laos.
Despite efforts by family members to provide help to these expelled Christians who now live in a hut in the woods with little to no provisions, the village authorities reportedly will not allow relatives or other people to help them.
Activists and NGO have actively denounced this latest instance of religious intolerance in the communist-led country.
Abuses in rural areas
Christians represent only about two per cent of the seven million people who make up the Laotian population. In the capital Vientiane and in other big cities, Christians are generally free to practice their faith among the prevalently Buddhist Asian country.
However, even though a lot of improvement has been observed as regards religious freedom, cases of violations and abuses against the Christian minority still remain in some rural areas, often perpetrated directly, or with the support of local authorities.
For example, in early 2020, three families were evicted from their homes in the village of Tine Doi in the Luang Namtha Province for not renouncing their faith.
Also, in March, a pastor was arrested by local officials for carrying out religious activities in Kalum Vangkhea village in the Savannakhet province.