Laos: Crackdown Targets Hmong Christians

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 442 | Wed 15 Aug 2007

A Presbyterian missionary first brought the gospel to Buddhist,
animist Laos in 1885. Whilst the ethnic Lao were resistant, the
ethnic minorities were not. Thanks to Gospel radio and indigenous
missionaries, the 20th century saw revivals amongst the Hmong and
the Khmu which sometimes involved whole villages turning to Christ.
During the second Indochina war the Hmong, who live in the hills
that straddle northern Vietnam and Laos, joined with the American
forces against the Communists. But by April 1975 the Americans had
been driven out and the Communists had won. This left the Hmong in
a dire situation as an ethnic and growing religious minority under
vengeful Communist regimes. According to Operation World, some 90
percent of all the Laos Christian leadership were forced to flee
the Communist advances, reprisals, purges and persecution of 1975.

The Laos government, still one of the world's most severe abusers
of religious liberty, has explicitly declared its intention to
'eliminate Christianity'. The government not only severely
persecutes Christians, it is also pursuing a genocidal war against
the restive Hmong, using military means which include gross
barbarity, chemical weapons ('yellow rain') and starvation. (See
note and links below).

In early June, ten people were arrested in California, USA, and
charged with plotting a coup to overthrow the Laos government. The
ringleaders of the alleged plot were Harrison Jack (60), a former
US Army Ranger who led covert operations and worked with Hmong
fighters during the Vietnam War, and Gen. Vang Pao (77), a
prominent member of the Hmong community who emigrated to the US in
the 1970s. The BBC reports that Vang Pao, as a Laotian general, led
CIA-backed forces against Communist guerrillas before they seized
power in 1975. According to the BBC the group is said to have spent
millions of dollars on weapons and explosives.

The events in the US have triggered a major persecution against
Christian Hmong in Laos, where it is assumed the Christians have US
links. Compass Direct (CD) reported on 7 August that Lao government
soldiers and police had killed at least 13 Hmong Christians in the
previous month and that some 200 members of a 1900-strong Laos
Evangelical Church in Ban Sai Jarern (north-western Laos) were
imprisoned. One source told CD that police are shooting on sight
Christians they are searching for intensively in rice fields and
mountains. Vietnamese police and soldiers have crossed into Laos
seeking Vietnamese Hmong.

The authorities are accusing the churches of being linked to Gen.
Vang Pao and that the pastors are preparing their congregations to
participate in the coup. The churches however flatly deny the
charges and maintain that they are good, loyal, law-abiding
citizens. Exploiting the situation, Communist village officials and
committee members and other anti-Christian elements are agitating
for a purge of Christians. Numerous church leaders have been
seized. Police are pursuing others who are on the run.

On top of this, the Thai Prime Minister announced on 6 August that
Thailand would return some 8000 ethnic Hmong refugees to Laos
despite their claims they face persecution in their homeland. World
leaders generally are indifferent to what they know is happening in
Laos, which will apply for membership in the World Trade
Organisation in 2008.


* protect and sustain his Church amidst this terrible persecution,
especially the Christian leaders - so vital for the Church - who
are being specifically targeted by the authorities.

* speak comfort and love to the hearts of the Christian believers
amongst the traumatised Hmong fleeing through the jungle or who
are refugees in Thailand, so that they will not lose faith or
hope; may he draw them to prayer and deliver them from their
enemies. 'From the Lord comes deliverance.' (Psalm 3:8 NIV)

* turn the hearts of world leaders from indifference to indignation
that leads to action (Proverbs 21:1).

* pour out his Spirit mightily on the majority Lao people,
emboldening the Lao Church and opening Lao hearts to receive the




The Hmong live in the hills of northern Vietnam and Laos. Last
century multitudes of Hmong became Christians through great
movements of the Holy Spirit, mainly in response to Gospel radio.
The Hmong fought alongside the US against the Communists during the
second Indochina war, but by 1975 the US had left and the
Communists had won. The Hmong, especially the Christians, were then
persecuted severely. Laos is one of the world's worst abusers of
religious liberty and Christians there are treated as state
enemies. The government has vowed to 'eliminate Christianity'. In
June US police uncovered a Hmong plot to overthrow the Laos
government and rounded up the ringleaders in California. This has
triggered severe persecution against Christian Hmong in Laos, where
it is assumed the Christians have US links. Please pray. The
situation is desperate.



Rebecca Sommer, a German-born New York-based filmmaker and human
rights activist, has produced a film 'Hunted Like Animals' that
shockingly exposes the severe trauma of the Hmong.

'Hunted Like Animals' may be purchased as a DVD or watched as
Quicktime clips from Rebecca Sommer's site
< http://www.rebeccasommer.org/documentaries/Hmong/index.php > or as
a series of YouTube clips
< http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmSWXk1nFRc&mode=related&search >.

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RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
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Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.