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Arrested for spreading the faith

VIENTIANE (SE): Laotian authorities arrested two Christians on September 2 and charged them with a crime they defined as spreading the faith.

Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom reported that the two are being held at a prison in Khammouane in central Laos.

At noon, five police agents broke into the house of a Christian family in the village of Nong-hang and took away the two Christian leaders, 43-year-old Bountheung Phetsomphone and 40-year-old Neuy. Both are married with three children each.

Local witnesses told the human rights organisation that Bountheung and Neuy were on a visit to the home of a Christian family of five people in the village of Nong-hang. During their stay, they encouraged those present to spend some time in prayer.

After the brief service, the group sat down for lunch, when five police officers stormed the house and arrested the two Christian leaders.

Local sources noted that the police in Khounkham have been closely monitoring Christian activities since 2008 in an attempt to contain its growth.

The village chief and a Communist Party official informed police of the visit of the two.

Since the Communists took power in 1975 and expelled foreign missionaries, the Christian minority in Laos has been under strict control, its right to worship limited.

Most of Laos’ six million population is Buddhist (67 per cent). Christians make up about two per cent of the total; 0.7 per cent are Catholic.

Protestant communities have suffered the most from religious persecution. Cases include peasants deprived of food for their faith and clergy being arrested.

Since April 2011, tighter controls have been imposed, following a violent crackdown against protests by some groups within the Hmong ethnic minority group.


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