ASIA/LAOS - Two pastors protested released after one year in prison, other Christians leaders arrested

Monday, 9 January 2012

Savannakhet (Agenzia Fides) - The civilian authorities in the province of Khammouan have released two Protestant pastors Wanna and Yohan, after a year in jail, but they continue to arrest other Christians and consider Christmas celebrations "illegal". This was communicated to Fides by the NGO "Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom" (HRWLRF), an NGO based in the United States, formed by Laotian immigrants, who monitor religious freedom in Laos. The two pastors were arrested, together with nine other Christians (then immediately released), on charges of having organized a Christmas celebration, which is considered "secret meeting". The two will try to resume their activities of guiding believers scattered in the province. On the other hand during the Christmas season - the NGO HRWLRF records - there was the arrest of eight Christian leaders in the village of Boukham accused of meeting, without prior authorization, more than 200 faithful Christians for a Christmas party.
In another incident reported by the NGO, government officials in the village of Huey, in Savannakhet Province, did not allow the faithful local Christians to bury a woman named Wang with a Christian rite. The eight Christian families from the village had tried to organize a funeral for the woman, who died on Christmas Day. On December 26, however, the village officials ordered that her body was buried according to the Buddhist funeral rites or for the body to be transported in the city of Savannakhet. The village Buddhist monk refused to carry out the ceremony because Wang was a Christian and the Christians from Huey, very poor indigenous people, could not bear the costs of a trip. While Wang's body was already decomposing, and given the intransigence of officials, local Christians were forced to accept to bury her in the civil cemetery of the village, without a funeral or a Christian cross on her grave. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 09/01/2012)