Officials Forcing the Abandonment of the Christian Faith on the Assumption of American Religion

Natahall village, Phin District, Savannakhet Province, Laos
Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRF)
Advocacy Alert No. 01/2014
March 14, 2014

On December 2, 2013, five Christian families (namely Mr. A-boun, family of 4; Mr. Lahaw, family of 4, Mr. Bountun, family of 4; Mrs. Achak, family of 2, and Mr. Sorn, family of 10) received eviction order from the Natahall village authorities (namely, Mr. Amka, village chief; and Mr. Juayjong, village religious affairs official) and the Phin district police stationed at Saybanghiang sub-district (namely, Mr. Bounthong). The 5 families, who are legal residents of Natahall village, decided to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed religious right in embracing the Christian faith. However, acting in contrary to the Lao constitution, these Lao authorities deemed that believing in the Christian faith was contrary to local religious beliefs and customs and therefore acted to ban the Christian faith from the village and expulse village residents who are Christians from the village if they continue to exercise their religious freedom to embrace the Christian faith.

After Natahall Christians insisted on and defended their religious right to the Christian faith, the village chief took further action in order to coerce the Christians to abandon their faith. On December 8, the village chief publically declared that the Christians would be personally responsible for any death coming upon Natahall villagers because the village chief and the village elders maintained that believing in God violated the village’s longstanding spirit beliefs and customs. The village chief was prepared to issue legal documents for relocating Christians to other Christian communities in the province.

Amidst continuous threats by the officials, 3 more families have joined the Christian faith, totally 8 families who now adhere to the Christian beliefs. In a recent effort to stop the spread of the Christian faith in Natahall and eradicate it from taking root, the village chief, along with the Phin district police stationed in Tathai sub-district, summoned the 8 Christian families for a 4-hour meeting on March 11, 2014. The officials jeered the Natahall Christians and directed them to abandon their Christian faith, stating that the Christians are believing in a foreign American religion. The officials said to the Christians, “We fought to rid of the Americans before and now you are leading their religion into our homes.”

Christian residents of Natahall village are fighting hard to keep their homes as well as their constitutionally guaranteed right to believe in the Christian faith. They have appealed to the Phin district religious affairs to intervene; however, nothing has happened.

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 U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009, upholding 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.

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