Kingdom Expansion in Laos Faced with Obstacles and Opposition

Parents carry their children as they leave their home during the flood after the Xepian-Xe Nam Noy hydropower dam collapsed in Attapeu province, Laos.
REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Laos (CAM) — Relatives hostile to Christian faith, flooded roads that damage motorcycles, government restrictions on travel – all can instill fear in both native missionaries and new Christians in Laos.

In one of the world’s last bastions of communism, a 2016 religion law known as Decree 315 threatens to cripple efforts to spread the Gospel, as it requires prior permission to carry out religious activity beyond a religious group’s building.

The decree empowers MOHA to stop religious activities – or even beliefs – that differ from “policies, traditional customs, laws, or regulations,” and may stop any religious activity “threatening national stability, peace, and social order…or affecting national solidarity or unity between tribes and religions,” according to the report.

Native missionaries seeking to bring the salvation message to neighboring villages are delayed or denied. One church leader reported that Ministry of Home Affairs (MOHA) officials required him to submit travel plans in advance for permission that could take as long as 20 days to process.

“Missionaries have expressed their complaints about the difficulty of the new Decree 315 law, which restricts the rights of Christian activities,” the director of a native ministry said. “They cannot just go to visit another village freely as they did before. They must get a paper of approval from the local authorities and state the purpose of the visitation, what reason, and who is going.”

Religious leaders reported various incidents throughout the country related to obtaining travel permission, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2018 International Religious Freedom Report.

“Some religious officials were detained even with proper travel authorization,” though most cases were resolved within hours, the report states.

Among reports that the decree requirements were “onerous, unrealistic, and used to restrict religious practices,” Christian groups cited problems registering and constructing churches and obtaining permission to travel within the country, according to the report.

Religious activities in another village require approval from district authorities; for activities in another district, permission must be obtained from provincial authorities; for activities in another province, permission must be obtained from national authorities.

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SOURCE: Mission Network News