Authorities Coercing Lao Christians to Participate in Animist Rituals of Oath-taking

Nonsung Village, Phin District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 05/2013
September 26, 2013

Approximately on September 8 (2013), the authorities of Nonsung village of Phin district, Savannakhet province, called for a village meeting where all villagers, both Christians and non-Christians, were required to attend. In the meeting, the authorities demanded that Christians participate in traditional animist rituals of oath-taking and drinking “sacred” water that had been through ritual incantation by a spirit medium, invoking the power of the spirits.

The swearing of an oath to the spirits is necessary for proving one’s loyalty, innocence, and submission to local authorities. The authorities further directed that any Christian who does not participate in the ritual would forfeit his or her right to live in the village and be banished from the village. A leader of Nonsung village church commented, “We as Christians cannot swear an oath to the spirits other than God; thus we have declined taking the sacred water.” Today, Nonsung’s Christians remain firm on continuing to observe their Christian faith and exercising their religious freedom.

Prior to March (2013), there was only one family of believers living in Nonsung village. Since then four more families have begun embracing the Christian faith. Now all five families have been meeting in homes in order to practice their Christian faith in a corporate worship.

Nonsung has eight Christian families, consisting of 53 individuals. The family heads along with the number in each family are as follows: Achan, 15 members; Asing, 6; Khammorn, 8; Lachorm, 9; Kuey, 6; Aked, 3 and Sunya, 6.

The U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009, upholds the individual’s right to adopt a religion/belief of choice as well as the right to manifest that religion/belief in a corporate worship (Article 18). Any form of coercion impairing the freedom to have and manifest one’s religion/belief of choice is condemned in the Covenant.

The HRWLRF urges the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying right to gather for corporate worship as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

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