Nahoukou Village, Utumpon District, Savannakhet Province
Advocacy Alert No. 15/2012
August 7, 2012
Yesterday, the 6th of August 2012, the village chief of Nahoukou village sommoned Mr. Tongkoun Keohavong, who serves as the church leader of Nahoukou village church, for a special meeting at the village headquarters. Members of the village government body were also present at the meeting. The village government authorities led by the village chief probed Tongkoun for the reasons of the growth of Christianity in the village. Tongkoun explained that starting February 2012 over thirty Lao villagers have exercised their religious freedom and embraced the Christian faith on their own due to their experience of God’s miraculous power of healing from evil spirits’ power and sickness. Since then, they have gathered weekly for worship in homes.
After hearing from Tongkoun, the Nahoukou village authorities ordered him and other believers to recant of their faith and discontinue gathering for practicing their Christian faith. In the meeting, Tongkoun responded: “God is real. When we believe, we are healed from sickness and immediately delivered from the possession of evil spirits.” He further stated: “We cannot deny the reality of God’s power.” The village authorities replied: “Our village does not allow any other religions to be practiced here other than our Lao religions.” Lao religions are Buddhism, Brahmanism, and spirit worship.
Today, at 9:00 AM, all five Christian families (consisting of approximately forty individuals) were again summoned to the village meeting at the village headquarters where the village chief and other officials were present along with all non-Christian villagers residing in the village. The village authorities publically condemned Lao Christians in the village meeting for embracing the Christian faith, which is considered a “foreign religion,” and ordered all five families of Lao Christians to recant of their Christian faith or face eviction from the village. Furthermore, officials ordered that Christians no longer gather in homes to exercise their Christian faith because Christianity is considered a foreign religion. Village officials suggested that physical harms would come upon the Christians if they did not recant. (Nahoukou village, located approximately 40 kilometers from the city of Savannakhet, is in Utumpon district of Savannakhet, Laos.)
The HRWLRF calls on the Lao government to respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedomâ€”to adhere to any religion of choice as guaranteed under the Lao constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by the Lao governmentâ€”and immediately reverse any verbal or written order or threat issued by village authorities that contradicts the Lao constitution or international convention.