VIENTIANE, LAOS (Worthy News)– The ruling authorities of several villages in Laos have been threatening to banish Christians unless they renounce their faith in Jesus.
During a public meeting in Huay village in Savannakhet Province last week, a representative from Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom told Morning Star News that local officials had decided that Christians villagers could be expelled for abandoning their animist beliefs and practices.
However, the decision contradicted the government’s commitment to the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that Laos ratified back in 2009.
“Obviously the right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in cooperate worship is upheld in the Covenant,” HRWLRF said in a press statement. “Any form of coercion impairing the freedom to have and manifest the religion/belief of choice is also condemned in the Covenant.”
Examples of that coercion were seen in Nongdaeng village in Borikhamsai Province after the village chief warned Christians to stop believing in Christ, or lose their properties and be banished; the chief then demanded they all recant their faith and return to their traditional animist religion.
The Christians were given three days to obey the village chief, but instead they continued to worship privately in their homes, claiming their religious rights under the Lao Constitution; as a result, eight other families in Nongdaeng decided to embrace Christianity as well.
In the village of Nonsung in Savannakhet Province, local officials demanded that Christians participate in an oath-taking ritual by drinking water made “sacred” through an incantation of a medium, according to HRWLRF.
“The swearing of an oath to the spirits is necessary for proving one’s loyalty, innocence, and submission to local authorities,” HRWLRF said in a press statement. “The authorities further directed that any Christian who does not participate in the ritual would forfeit his or her right to live in the village and be banished from the village.”
However, a Nonsung church leader said that swearing an oath to spirits rather than to God contradicted their beliefs, so village Christians declined to drink the water.