By BosNewsLife Asia Service
VIENTIANE, LAOS (BosNewsLife)– Authorities in southern Laos have detained four church leaders and another believer for organizing a Christian funeral service as part of a crackdown on Christianity in the area, rights activists told BosNewsLife Tuesday, June 24.
Church leaders Kaithong, Puphet, Muk, Hasadee and fellow Christian Tiang were arrested Tuesday, June 24, in Saisomboon village where they mourned the passing of a Christian woman, said Sirikoon Prasertsee, director of watchdog ‘Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom’ (HRWLRF).
“They are being detained with their hands in handcuffs and feet in wooden stocks,” he complained, referring to reports of police abuse.
Troubles began late Saturday, June 21, when “Mrs Chan passed away in Saisomboon village” in Atsaphangthong district, where her family wanted to organize a Christian funeral service and burry her.
“Mrs. Chan and all her eight sons and daughters began embracing the Christian faith in April, four of whom are married,” HRWLRF said in a statement.
Chan’s family became the fifth family in Saisomboon village to “embrace the Christian faith”, despite opposition by local authorities, Christians added.
As part of an effort to halt the spread of Christianity, local authorities reportedly banned Christian funeral services.
After being denied “burial rights” her children tried to bury their mother on their own land. But “when the time came to gather for mourning on Sunday evening, the village chief and local Communist party secretary banned the ceremony until all sons and daughters would sign an affidavit to recant of their Christian faith,” HRWLRF said.
They refused and the “body of the deceased began to rot”, activists explained. On Tuesday, June 24, security forces raided the gathering, detaining several church leaders and a Christian. Buddhist monks eventually conducted the ceremony and led the body of Chan to the village cemetery, Christians said.
The controversy was the latest in a series of reported anti-Christian incidents. Last month, three girls were told they
would not be allowed to end their studies after they became Christians. Church leader Kaithong, who was detained Tuesday, June, 24, appealed a decision by the Atsaphangthong district education chief not to allow the students Noi, 15, Net, 15, and Nut, 14, to have their examination at the regional Liansai School, Christians said.
“The HRWLRF said it had urged the Lao government to help release the detained Christians and allow the students to end their studies. Laos, it said, should “respect the right of the Lao people to religious freedom and the accompanying rights as guaranteed in the Lao constitution and the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Laos in 2009.”
Authorities in Laos could not be reached for immediate comment. However the Communist-run nation has been known for a crackdown on Christians in especially rural regions where local traditions and religions play a keyrole.