By BosNewsLife Asia Service
VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)– Authorities “forced” Christian mourners in southern Laos “to cease practicing their Christian faith” in order to bury a Christian family member, a key human rights official told BosNewsLife Wednesday, December 28.
Sirikoon Prasertsee, director of Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom (HRWLRW), said the Christians in Huey village in Savannakhet province were initially from holding a Christian funeral service for Wang, a Christian woman who passed away on Christmas Day.
“Huey authorities ordered them that no Christian burial ritual could be conducted for Wang in Huey village,” although the village has eight extended families of 40 devoted Christians, he said.
“Under extreme pressures from authorities and amid fears that the body would become rotten beyond handling, her husband San reluctantly agreed to a Buddhist ritual as demanded by authorities.”
Yet, the Buddhist monk eventually “refused to carry out a burial ritual for Wang because she is a Christian,” added Prasertsee.
Authorities later agreed to allow the Christians to bury the woman in a the village cemetery after they promised to cease Christian activities, Christians said.
Prasertsee said several believers later regretted their decision and pledged to continue practicing their faith in Christ. However, “The future of Christians in Huey village is extremely bleak as Lao authorities continue to punish Christians for their religious beliefs.”
BosNewsLife was not able to reach officials for a reaction, but the funeral controversy is the latest in a series of reported incidents in the area.
Earlier Christians told BosNewsLife that authorities plan to expel at least 47 Christians, “including men, women and children,” from nearby Natoo village in the Palansai District of Savannakhet province, because they refuse to recant their faith in Jesus Christ.
Analysts say Christianity is generally perceived as a Western ideology that challenges Communist rule in the country as well as the predominant Buddhist religion of the country’s 6.4 million people.
Laos ranks 10 on the 2011 World Watch List of the 50 “worst” nations for Christians, said advocacy group Open Doors, which publishes the annual list.
Last year, in 2010, 29 Christians were killed and at least 20 were arrested and held without trial, according to Open Doors estimates.
Several churches were destroyed and at least 11 Christian families were forced out of their villages into the forest when they refused to recant their faith, the group added.