Lao house church reopens after being attacked

Authorities warn villagers not to harass the Christians and promise protection.
By RFA Lao
Lao house church reopens after being attacked Village authorities and residents tear down a makeshift Christian church in Kaleum Vangke village in Savannakhet province, Laos, Feb. 4, 2024.
Citizen journalist

A small house church in southern Laos that was attacked by residents and village authorities earlier this month is  opening its doors under the protection of authorities, several churchgoers told Radio Free Asia.

On Feb. 4, a mob of residents and village authorities tore down the house where Chrsitians in Kaleum Vangke village in Savannakhet province’s Xonboury district had gathered for worship. The attackers also burned Bibles. 

Many churches and Christians in Laos have been assaulted despite a national law protecting the free exercise of faith.

But now Ministry of Public security officials are protecting their right to worship, a resident of the village and church member told RFA Lao on condition of anonymity for security reasons, like all other unnamed sources in this report.

“[The officials] announced that from now on, our fellow Christians can resume worship,” he said. “So, starting this week, we’re rebuilding our place of worship. Right now, we’re putting wooden planks back up.”

Another churchgoer confirmed that the higher level authorities overruled the village officials. While the building is being repaired, the church will still meet for worship.

“But the village authorities and other non-Christian villagers are still threatening us, threatening to tear down our place of worship again,” he said. “But we are getting stronger now. We’re not afraid to get together at that house anymore.”

He said that the district level authorities warned the village authorities not to harass Christians again.

The violence that occurred at the beginning of the month was at a time when Christians from other villages were visiting the makeshift church in Kaleum Vangke.

A Christian from the neighboring province of Saravan told RFA that although the authorities are allowing the Kaleum Vangke Christians to worship freely, it is still not safe to travel there for worship.

“The authorities of that village still forbid other Christians from other areas to visit their fellow Christians in that village,” he said. “Other Christians still feel unsafe to go there.”

A district official told RFA that nothing has been done to educate the village officials about the villagers’ rights in this matter.

“The district police haven’t done anything to reeducate or punish those village authorities and the group of villagers who tore down the Christian place of worship yet,” he said.

RFA Lao Service called the district police, but the person who received the call refused to answer any questions.

A Christian in another village in Savannakhet Province said that Christians in his area of the country are still being mistreated.

“For example, when my son died, the authorities of my village wouldn’t allow my family to bury my son in the village cemetery,” he said. “They say it’s against their beliefs because they don’t recognize us or our religion. They want to kick us out of the village and they won’t compromise at all.”

Often harassment against Christians goes unpunished.

In October 2022, Sy Sengmany, a Christian leader from Khammouane province, was gunned down and the suspects remain at large.

Translated by Max Avary. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.


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