By BosNewsLife Asia Service
VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)– Several impoverished Christian families in a rural area of Laos were without livestock Sunday, July 12, after authorities slaughtered the animals because they refused to renounce their faith, religious rights investigators said.
The Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom said in published remarks that authorities and residents of Katin village in the Ta Oih district of Saravan province confiscated and slaughtered pigs – each worth the equivalent of six weeks’ salary for an average laborer in the area.
Christians said the slaughter was a form of punishment for ignoring the order to abandon Christianity.
The slaughter followed a similar “punishment” meted out last September, when officials seized a buffalo worth approximately US$350 from a Christian resident identified only as Bounchu, telling him the animal would be returned only if he renounced his faith, reported Compass Direct News, a news agency investigating reports of Christian persecution.
When he refused, they allegedly slaughtered the animal in the village square, distributing the meat to non-Christian residents. Local officials reportedly said they would continue to seize livestock from Christian villagers until they either renounced their faith or none of their animals remained.
Four days earlier, provincial and district authorities told the village the Lao central government had ordered them to do slaughter livestock in response to international inquiries about alleged religious freedom abuses in the village, Christians said.
A spokesman from HRWLRF said there was no legal justification for Katin officials to confiscate personal property. Traditionally, however, many Lao believe that if fellow villagers cease worshiping territorial spirits, the spirits will take offense and an animal sacrifice must be made to appease them, Compass Direct News said.
Officials in Katin have long ignored religious freedom provisions, Christians said. Last year, on July 21, officials reportedly detained 80 Christians in the village after residents seized a believer identified only as Pew and poured rice wine down his throat, killing him by asphyxiation.
When family members buried Pew and placed a wooden cross on his grave, officials accused them of “practicing the rituals of the enemy of the state” and seized a buffalo and pig from them as a fine.
On July 25, 2008, officials rounded up 17 of the 20 Christian families then living in the village – a total of 80 men, women and children – and detained them in a school compound, denying them food in an effort to force the adults to sign documents renouncing their faith, according to several reports.
The other three Christian families in the village at that time had already signed the documents under duress, rights investigators said.
As their children grew weaker, 10 families signed the documents and were reportedly permitted to return home. The remaining seven families were evicted from the village and settled in an open field nearby, surviving on food found in the nearby jungle, Compass Direct News said
Analysts say the Communist-leaning government of Laos sees Christianity as a threat to its power base and ideology, charges officials have denied.