Christians are a minority in Buddhist-majority Laos. In a population of just under 7.2 million, there are only around 199,000 believers.
Christian activities are heavily monitored by the communist authorities, including those of registered churches. Especially in rural areas, house churches are forced to meet underground as they are considered ‘illegal gatherings’.
Life is especially difficult for converts to the Christian faith, who are at risk of persecution from their family and the local authorities. This can involve damage to property, confiscation of possessions and fines. Women can also face the danger of rape and sexual harassment.
Opposition is heightened when a convert’s family or the local authorities stir up the local community against them, sometimes through local village meetings or by seeking the support of local religious leaders.
Church leadership in Laos tends to be dominated by men, a role which makes them vulnerable to persecution. They can face imprisonment in harsh and degrading conditions, and be asked to pay a huge fine to secure their release, putting financial pressure on families and churches. The absence of a leader also weakens churches spiritually and evokes fear.
“I pray that the harvest that the Lord has allowed Khambang to witness will serve as an encouragement for us to continually remember those who share the same faith but not the same freedom.” Khambang
Khambang – whose name we’ve changed to protect his identity – is a married father of four. He has fled for his life not just once or twice, but three times – all because he boldly shares the gospel. Now, five years after his last escape, Khambang isn’t running anymore. He attended a Bible School supported by Open Doors, and he’s back to passionately preaching the Word of God and leading souls to Christ.
During lockdown last year (due to Covid-19), he led 11 families to faith in just one village – a total of 43 new believers! “Thank you for partnering with us for the work in Laos,” he says.
Laos has dropped two places to No. 22 on the 2021 World Watch List. This shows a marginal reduction in opposition to Christianity, reflected in the fact the government started a training programme on freedom of religion and belief for local authorities. If this will lead to improvements at the grassroots level remains to be seen. Regardless, it will not change family and community opposition to converts, so Laos remains an enormously challenging country in which to follow Jesus.
Please keep praying for your brothers and sisters in Laos. Your gifts and prayers make an enormous difference to those following Jesus no matter the cost.
Open Doors partners strengthen persecuted believers in Laos by providing Christian materials, leadership training, socio-economic development programmes, advocacy support and emergency relief.
Lord Jesus, give Your people strength to endure persecution, and grace to love and forgive their persecutors. May local and national authorities see Christians not as a threat but as valuable members of society. Continue to open the eyes of Laotians to the life-giving faith of their Christian neighbours. May Your kingdom come in Laos. Amen.
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