Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The War on Christianity in Laos

From Religion Today, August 17, 2007. I have a special interest in the church in Laos due to...reasons that cannot be published here.

Laotian Government Efforts to 'Eliminate Christianity'
Elizabeth Kendal

August 17, 2007

AUSTRALIA -- A Presbyterian missionary first brought the gospel to Buddhist, animist Laos in 1885. Whilst the ethnic Lao were resistant, the ethnic minorities were not. Thanks to Gospel radio and indigenous missionaries, the 20th century saw revivals amongst the Hmong and the Khmu which sometimes involved whole villages turning to Christ. During the second Indochina war the Hmong, who live in the hills that straddle northern Vietnam and Laos, joined with the American forces against the Communists. But by April 1975 the Americans had been driven out and the Communists had won. This left the Hmong in a dire situation as an ethnic and growing religious minority under vengeful Communist regimes. According to Operation World, some 90 percent of all the Laos Christian leadership were forced to flee the Communist advances, reprisals, purges and persecution of 1975.

The Laos government, still one of the world's most severe abusers of religious liberty, has explicitly declared its intention to 'eliminate Christianity.' The government not only severely persecutes Christians, it is also pursuing a genocidal war against the restive Hmong, using military means which include gross barbarity, chemical weapons ('yellow rain') and starvation. (See note and links below).

In early June, ten people were arrested in California, USA, and charged with plotting a coup to overthrow the Laos government. The ringleaders of the alleged plot were Harrison Jack (60), a former US Army Ranger who led covert operations and worked with Hmong fighters during the Vietnam War, and Gen. Vang Pao (77), a prominent member of the Hmong community who emigrated to the US in the 1970s. The BBC reports that Vang Pao, as a Laotian general, led CIA-backed forces against Communist guerrillas before they seized power in 1975. According to the BBC the group is said to have spent millions of dollars on weapons and explosives.

The events in the US have triggered a major persecution against Christian Hmong in Laos, where it is assumed the Christians have US links. Compass Direct (CD) reported on August 7 that Lao government soldiers and police had killed at least 13 Hmong Christians in the previous month and that some 200 members of a 1900-strong Laos Evangelical Church in Ban Sai Jarern (north-western Laos) were imprisoned. One source told CD that police are shooting on sight Christians they are searching for intensively in rice fields and mountains. Vietnamese police and soldiers have crossed into Laos seeking Vietnamese Hmong.

The authorities are accusing the churches of being linked to Gen. Vang Pao and that the pastors are preparing their congregations to participate in the coup. The churches however flatly deny the charges and maintain that they are good, loyal, law-abiding citizens. Exploiting the situation, Communist village officials and committee members and other anti-Christian elements are agitating for a purge of Christians. Numerous church leaders have been seized. Police are pursuing others who are on the run.

On top of this, the Thai Prime Minister announced on August 6 that Thailand would return some 8000 ethnic Hmong refugees to Laos despite their claims they face persecution in their homeland. World leaders generally are indifferent to what they know is happening in Laos, which will apply for membership in the World Trade Organisation in 2008.

Please Pray Specifically for God to...

  • protect and sustain his Church amidst this terrible persecution, especially the Christian leaders - so vital for the Church - who are being specifically targeted by the authorities.
  • speak comfort and love to the hearts of the Christian believers amongst the traumatised Hmong fleeing through the jungle or who are refugees in Thailand, so that they will not lose faith or hope; may he draw them to prayer and deliver them from their enemies. 'From the Lord comes deliverance.' (Psalm 3:8 NIV)
  • turn the hearts of world leaders from indifference to indignation that leads to action (Proverbs 21:1).
  • pour out his Spirit mightily on the majority Lao people, emboldening the Lao Church and opening Lao hearts to receive the gospel.

Note and Links

Rebecca Sommer, a German-born New York-based filmmaker and human rights activist, has produced a film 'Hunted Like Animals' that shockingly exposes the severe trauma of the Hmong.

'Hunted Like Animals' may be purchased as a DVD or watched as Quicktime clips from Rebecca Sommer's site
http://www.rebeccasommer.org/documentaries/Hmong/index.php or as a series of YouTube clips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmSWXk1nFRc&mode=related&search .

Elizabeth Kendal is the Principal Researcher and Writer for the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC) www.worldevangelical.org/rlc.html. This article was initially written for the WEA RLP(Religious Liberty Prayer) mailing list. Elizabeth can be contacted by e-mail at rl-research@crossnet.org.au.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a mess. My heart was pounding as I watched the YouTube link with the elderly and young lamenting for safety. The Hmong people helped the Americans during the war. I feel like we have turned our back on them.

I wonder why Thailand is releasing them back to Laos? From where does the pressure come?

God bless the wonderful lights able to endure the Anti-Christian communist government. May God put a hedge of protection around them and spare their lives.