What does persecution look like in Laos?
The reporting period for the 2024 World Watch List began with a shocking moment for Christians in Laos: the murder of a pastor in October 2022. Across the country, violence rose substantially this year compared to last year, a shocking increase even for a place used to physical threats. Christians were kicked out of their communities, their homes were destroyed, and they endured so much for following Jesus.
The spike in violence comes in addition to the common pressure that Lao believers experience. At the local level, Communist authorities heavily monitor religious activities in some parts of the country. In these areas, church leaders reported cases of local authorities closing down house churches. These gatherings must operate under the radar; technically, they are illegal. But even among registered churches, the threats are real. They are monitored, and it's estimated that 75% of all registered Lao Evangelical church congregations must worship in homes, which authorities consider illegal since worship gatherings are only allowed in approved religious buildings. Many unregistered house churches gather under the umbrella of a national registered church.
Converts to Christianity carry additional vulnerabilities. Because they are seen as traitors to their communities who have angered the spirits, they can face pressure and violence from their families and local authorities. Families have been known to stir up the local community, who often expel converts from their homes and villages.
Converts from Christianity suffer the most throughout the country because they are thought to have betrayed their community. Church leaders are often heavily targeted in parts of Laos. Additionally, it seems that the highest pressure, including violent opposition, occurs against churches that are growing and evangelizing.
"When I hear of someone being persecuted, I go to them right away because I don’t want them to give up their faith in God. I am afraid they will forsake God, which will be very discouraging. I extend them practical help as much as I can—clothes, temporary shelter, or food. I ask what their needs are, whether practical, moral, or spiritual, and I discuss this with my church and with same-hearted people just like Open Doors to help these believers and deliver their needs. My heart goes out to our friends, to persecuted believers."Maixay, a believer in Laos
What has changed this year?
The violence in Laos spiked during this year's reporting period, resulting in a jump in rank. The year started with a shocking murder, and the attacks continued throughout 2023. Christians must endure daily pressure, discrimination, attacks and government raids. Converts are at risk of losing their homes, families and communities. This year shows just how dangerous this Southeast Asian country is for Christians.
What does Open Doors do to help Christians in Laos?
Open Doors' local partners strengthen persecuted believers in Laos by providing Christian materials, leadership and discipleship training, socio-economic development programs, advocacy support and emergency relief.
How can you pray for Laos?
- Pray for Christians and especially church leaders who are heavily monitored by the Communist government. Ask God to give them wisdom and courage.
- Pray for believers who are expelled from their rural communities for their faith in Jesus. Pray that God will comfort them.
- Ask God to protect unregistered churches. Ask Him to enable these churches to continue to meet and offer fellowship for followers of Jesus.
Dear God, we are heartbroken by the amount of violence our brothers and sisters in Laos have endured this year. We mourn with all of those who have lost a loved one or endured the hatred of a community, or seen a loved one put in jail just because they follow Jesus. We ask that You would be with Your people and comfort them. We ask that You would bring peace and help Your people. In Jesus' name, Amen.