How many Christians are there in Laos?
Christians are a tiny minority in Laos. There are estimated to be 203,000 in total – just three per cent of the country’s Buddhist-majority population.
How are Christians persecuted in Laos?
Christian freedom in Laos is severely curtailed by the intense monitoring of the Communist authorities.
House churches that do not have administrative approval are considered ‘illegal gatherings’ and must operate underground. Most registered churches do not have permanent church structures and must conduct worship services in homes.
Church leaders – who tend to be men – are vulnerable to imprisonment, and once detained their families (or church congregations) often must pay considerable amounts of money to ensure their release. These fines, together with the absence of a father and pastor, can have a devastating impact on families and churches.
Meanwhile, converts to Christianity – who are deemed guilty of betraying the Buddhist-animist traditions of their community – frequently face pressure and violence from their families and the local authorities, both of whom will stir up opposition from the local community or religious leaders. This can lead to converts being expelled from the village.
Sadly, violence against women is widely accepted culturally in Laos. Consequently, only one in five women who experience abuse report it to the local authorities—an attitude that makes converts to Christianity more prone to violence. Young Christian women are also being caught up in the increase in human trafficking of brides to China.
“After I accepted Jesus Christ, I felt like a normal person. My heart and soul were completely healed! However, my happiness was crushed because of harsh persecution.”Soy, a teenage Christian in Laos
What’s life like for Christians in Laos?
The imprisonment of Christians in Laos is sadly not unusual. Soy is amongst this group, but what makes her story especially unusual and troubling is that she was just 14 when detained – a year below the legal age for imprisonment in Laos.
Soy* was one of 14 believers in Laos imprisoned for six days for refusing to stop worshipping Jesus. Even when pressured in prison to renounce their faith, Soy and the others refused. They were later released but the persecution continued for Soy. She was bullied by her friends and even her teachers.
To continue her studies, Soy (now 16) moved to the city where your generosity has been an enormous help to her. “I am thankful to my brothers and sisters from around the globe,” she says. “Because of God’s love, I received financial support to buy food and school supplies to continue my studies. Without you, I would not be able to continue my studies.”
*Name changed for security reasons
How can I help Christians in Laos?
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 works through local partners to strengthen persecuted believers in Laos by providing Christian materials, leadership and discipleship training, socio-economic development programmes, advocacy support and emergency relief.
Lord Jesus, give Your children in Laos strength to stand firm against the pressure many of them are facing. Protect house churches from surveillance and restriction, and guard pastors from detention. Provide for all families and churches whose pastor has been imprisoned. Bring an end to the trafficking of women to China, and minister Your healing to all those in need of it today. Thank You for Your faithful church in Laos. May Your people continue to grow in faith and witness. Amen.