South East Asia

Five Christians arrested for celebrating Christmas in Laos

Christians from a village in Laos. Photo credit: Radio Free Asia (from a photo submitted by a listener).

Laos district official claims “Christianity is the religion of the Europeans and Americans” after five believers are arrested for celebrating Christmas.

Authorities in southern Laos arrested five Christians last month, after four believers from one village invited a pastor from another village to join them to organise Christmas celebrations. Christians in Phin district are only permitted to hold Christmas celebrations in their own village.

A local official told journalists shortly after the arrests: “In general, Christians are still restricted in this district. They are not allowed to teach from the Bible or to spread their religion to others, because Christianity is the religion of the Europeans and Americans.”

Laos’ communist government is officially secular but Buddhists, who make up around 80% of the population, enjoy comparative religious freedom while Christians face localised harassment.

New laws introduced by the government in 2016 require churches to register to conduct services and make it illegal for them to disturb “national harmony.”