Laos: church leaders arrested

 Seven church leaders and one church member were arrested by the police in Laos on 31 May, the Jubilee Campaign reported today. The detained Christian men are Sipasert Phuadaeng, 52, Bounyarn Robkhob, 58, Tem Chanthara, 56, Mr. Puang, 60, Phouwanard Trivilaisook, 40, Mr. Kiloy, 36, Kong Phaeng Phrasawat, 36, and Mr. Khemphet. The campaign has also received information that the central government of Laos has sent secret orders to local authorities to close down the churches in the whole country starting in the countryside. Three of the detained Christian leaders, Sipasert Phuadaeng, Tem Chanthara and Kong Phaeng Phrasawat are now too weak to walk as their health has suffered badly due to the poor prison conditions. Three of the younger prisoners are being kept handcuffed. The campaign is deeply concerned about the health of these detainees as the bad prison conditions are likely to cause their physical condition to deteriorate drastically. As an excuse to persecute these Christians for their religious beliefs, trumped up charges have been made against them of so-called anti-government activities and involvement with foreign political movements in order to weaken the government. Jubilee Campaign has learned that these eight Christians were arrested by the police because the authorities wanted to force them to give up their faith. For some time now they have been threatened by the police. Several attempts have been made to force them to sign affidavits renouncing their religious beliefs but all of them have refused to co-operate. The families of these detainees are also under intense pressure from the authorities to abandon their Christian faith. For years the Lao authorities have been arresting large numbers of Christians, in an attempt to stop their religious activities and to force them to give up their faith. For instance, recently the police have been using a variety of tactics to frighten Christians in Muang Songkhone district, Savannakhet province, to force them to sign official documents renouncing their faith but this strategy has not worked as well as they intended which is one reason why they have decided to arrest the church leaders. Wilfred Wong, Jubilee's Researcher and Parliamentary Officer, said: "The Communist government in Laos is intent on wiping out the church there. There is an urgent need to mobilise prayer and international pressure on behalf of Lao Christians." Jubilee Campaign has mobilised Parliamentarians to lobby the government of Laos and the British Foreign Office in an attempt to stop the campaign by the Lao authorities to destroy the church. source: Mark Rowlands, Jubilee Campaign

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