Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Tuesday 11 January 2011
Laotian Christians arrested at gunpoint
Country/Region: Lao, People's Democratic Republic, South and East Asia
A group of Laotian Christians, including two young children, were arrested at gunpoint while they were eating a meal at a pastor’s home.
A map showing the location of Laos
The raid by 20 police officers at the house in Nakoon village, Hinboun district, took place on 4 January at 7pm. Eleven Christians were arrested and charged with holding a “secret meeting” – an act punishable as a political offence in communist Laos. Among those arrested were two house church leaders, Pastor Wanna and Yohan, who have previously been imprisoned for their Christian activities, and two children aged four and eight. Some of those detained have since been released, but the leaders remain in custody.
The group was having dinner at Pastor Wanna’s house when the raid took place. He had informed the authorities in December that a Christmas gathering would be held at his home on 5 January, but the raid was launched the night before.
Pastor Wanna leads the church in Nakoon, and Yohan the one in the nearby village of Tonglar. Pastor Wanna had started holding worship meetings in his home in 2008 and by 2009, 105 villagers had converted to Christianity from animism and Buddhism. At the same time Yohan was sharing his faith in Tonglar, and 15 families embraced the Christian faith.
During this period Pastor Wanna was repeatedly summoned to the district police station for interrogation. Despite being threatened with imprisonment if he did not recant his faith and cease his Christian activities, he was undeterred.
The two leaders were arrested and detained in Hinboun district prison from May to October 2010. They were both charged with leading other people to embrace the Christian faith. During their imprisonment, the villagers they had led to Christ were put through a “re-education program” by the authorities, after which they were forced to sign an oath recanting their Christian faith. Believers from another nearby village, Nahin, were put through the same ordeal.
Upon his release from prison Pastor Wanna was ordered not to hold worship meetings in his home or influence others in the Christian faith but he resumed the gatherings. Some of the families who recanted their faith have returned. The Communist government of Laos regards Protestant Christianity as a Western import that threatens national unity and has made clear its intention to eliminate it from the country.