Christians asked to renounce faith or face expulsion from district

Several villages have seen growth in number of conversions to Christianity. Members of the civil authorities held a public meeting at the village of Huay, where the decision was announced.

Laos
Sep 26 2013, 5:21 PM
Christians asked to renounce faith or face expulsion from district

Civil authorities of Atsaphangthong district in Savannakhet Province last Saturday ordered citizens of Christian faith in various villages to renounce their faith or risk expulsion from the district.

Christians rejected the decision, saying that their right to religious freedom was guaranteed by the Laotian Constitution and that they were prepared to suffer expulsion than renounce their faith.

Several villages have seen growth in number of conversions to Christianity. Members of the civil authorities held a public meeting at the village of Huay, where the decision was announced.

Christianity is a minority religion in Laos, which has seen persecution of Christians. The Lao Evangelical Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Roman Catholic Church exist in predominantly Buddhist Laos, where animist beliefs are widespread among all segments of the population.

The NGO Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF) denounced the government’s failure to comply with the constitutional provision that ensured religious freedom. The right to adopt a freely chosen faith, as well as the right to publicly manifest one's religion is confirmed by Article 16 of the Covenant. The text condemns any form of coercion of personal freedom, including the freedom of faith.

Local civil servants in many districts of the various provincesoften disregard this provision. The NGO called on the government of Laos to enforce the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009. HRWLRF urged the Lao government to respect the right of the Laotian people to full religious freedom, to control the moves and the abuses of local civil servants and to protect Lao citizens belonging to Christian faith.

Last month, authorities of Nongdaeng village in Borikan district of Borikhamsai Province ordered 11 families who recently converted to Christianity to renounce their faith and return to animist religion, or else to face expulsion from the village.

Source: Agenzia Fides

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