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EDITORIAL
LAOS: CRUEL PERSECUTION ESCALATING
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
Religious Liberty Commission
05-Oct-2008
Communism came to power in Laos on the back of the North Vietnamese
Communist victory of 1975. This resulted in a 'special
relationship' between Hanoi (Vietnam) and Vientiane (Laos), so it
is often said that Vietnam and Laos fit together geographically,
historically and ideologically 'like lips and teeth'. The Second
Indochina War (the Vietnam War) saw the Indochinese Communists
defeat the US and its allies, which included Laos' ethnic Hmong who
had been recruited by the CIA to block the Ho Chi Min trail. Whilst
the war may have ended, a military campaign against the Laos' Hmong
persists. Aimed at genocide, the campaign involves massacres, the
use of chemical weapons ('yellow rain') and forced starvation.

Christians in Laos have long suffered severe and systematic
religious persecution at the hands of the Communists. Christianity
is labelled a 'foreign religion' and embracing it is akin to
sedition. The authorities use violent intimidation and threats in
trying to force Christians to renounce their faith. When that
fails, they expel them from their homes and villages, and when that
fails they arrest and torture them. Occasionally parents will
reluctantly renounce their faith to protect their children from
starvation in the forest.

As the US International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 gets its
leverage from US economic power, severe anti-Christian persecution
has tended to come in waves as the regime tries to balance its
pursuit of US economic aid against its determination to maintain
totalitarian control.

Recently Christians in Laos have reported an increase in religious
persecution. The Washington-based Hmong National Development Inc.
attributes this to 'increased intervention by Vietnam's communist
party officialdom and Vietnam's secret police and military'. It is
possible the Laotian regime is cracking down on Christianity on
advice from Hanoi (Vietnam) where Catholic prayer-vigil-protests
have persisted for 10 months. These have grown to be the largest
public demonstrations since the Communists came to power there and
have begun attracting international attention to rights and justice
issues. Furthermore, Hmong women from northern Vietnam have been
present at the Hanoi prayer vigils, wearing full national dress and
playing indigenous musical instruments. The Vietnamese authorities
have responded to this by specifically slandering and denigrating
the Hmong in the State-run media.

Meanwhile hundreds of Christian families across several provinces
in Laos are presently suffering appalling persecution. Arising from
this, the welfare of Pastor Sompong Supatto (32), Boot
Chanthaleuxay (18) and Khamvan Chanthaleuxay (18) -- three
believers from a house church in Boukham village, Savannakhet
province -- is of particular concern. They have been handcuffed
with their feet in stocks at Ad-Sapangthong district police
detention cell since 3 August when they were arrested for refusing
to sign papers renouncing their faith. They had been threatened
several times previously but had continued to worship regardless.
According to Compass Direct, the authorities have said that Pastor
Supatto does not qualify for bail as his punishment for leading the
Boukham church would be 'life in prison'. The teenagers, who are
suffering acute pain, infections and circulation problems, will
only be released when they renounce their faith. Today multitudes
of humble Laotian believers are refusing to deny their Lord or
forsake worship, accepting rather the cross of extreme punishment
and even torture to death. Let us pray for the Church in Laos.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR:

* Pastor Sompong Supatto (32) and Boot and Khamvan Chanthaleuxay
(both 18), that God will sustain their bodies, minds and spirits
through his healing touch and his comforting embrace. May Christ
continue to draw them near so they may know the peace of God
which passes understanding and which guards hearts and minds in
him. (Philippians 4:7)

* God to intervene and bring justice and release to Laos'
imprisoned Christians, justice and provision for Laos'
dispossessed Christians, and justice and righteousness to the
nation for his name's sake.

* God to intervene so that 'truth, justice and charity' might come
in Hanoi, Vietnam, and so too in Laos where the present
crack-down on Christians may be influenced by Hanoi.

'And the Lord saw it, and it displeased him that there was no
justice. . . . then his own arm brought him salvation . . .'
(Isaiah 59:15b,16b ESV)
Jim Dykstra