Laos, Southeast Asia
Political Leader: President Lt. Gen. Choummali Saignason
Religions: Buddhism 61%, Traditional 31.2%, Christianity 1.9%, Other 5.9%
Persecution Ranking: No. 9
Number of Terrorist Groups: 1
Acts of Terrorism: 14; Casualties: 3
Percent of Corruption: 74%
% of People in Poverty: 30.7%
Laos, officially known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a landlocked communist state in southeast Asia, bordered by Myanmar (Burma) and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. After a period as a French protectorate, Laos gained independence in 1949. A long civil war that lasted for two decades ended when the communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975. Laos’ thickly forested landscape consists mostly of rugged mountains, with some plains and plateaus. The Mekong River forms a large part of the western boundary with Thailand, whereas the mountains of the Annamite Chain form most of the eastern border with Vietnam.
Since 2002, Laos has consistently denounced international terrorism and expressed a willingness to cooperate with the international community on counterterrorism. However, the government of Laos has had weak enforcement procedures, inefficient security organizations and negligible border security. Additionally, the government lacks resources and Lao officials have an attitude that Laos could not become a target of international terrorism. In spite of the presence of a domestic insurgency that has employed terrorist tactics, such as ambushing civilian buses and bombing civilian targets, Lao officials at many levels saw terrorism as an issue of only marginal relevance to Laos because they believed that their small and neutral country would not be targeted by terrorists. Laos has a small terrorists insurgency numbering perhaps 1,000 to 2,000, including women and children, based in very remote areas of north/central Laos.
Laos’ population is approximately 61% Buddhists and only 1.85% of its citizens are Christians.
Challenges for Christians:
The Laos government, still one of the world’s most severe abusers of religious liberty, has explicitly declared its intention to “eliminate Christianity.” Laos is ranked No. 9 among nations that are the worst persecutors of Christians based on Open Doors 2007 “World Watch List.” The government not only severely persecutes Christians, but it is also pursuing a genocidal war against the Hmong, using military means that include gross barbarity, chemical weapons and starvation. 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. Over 90% of trained church leaders left Laos in 1975 in the face of persecution from communists. It is still dangerous and difficult for church leaders to leave the country to get training.
- Pray for the government of Laos to counter terrorism by providing strong enforcement procedures, efficient security organizations and effective border security.
- Pray for the plans of Laos’ small terrorists insurgency to be defeated.
- Thank God for his faithfulness and the faithfulness of his Church in Laos. Despite restrictions and persecution, the Church in Laos is growing.
- Pray for God to protect and sustain his Church in Laos amidst terrible persecution, especially the Christian leaders, who are being specifically targeted by the authorities.
- Pray for speak comfort and love to reach the hearts of the Christian Believers among the traumatized Hmong fleeing through the jungle or who are refugees in Thailand, so that they will not lose faith or hope. Pray that God may draw them to prayer and deliver them from their enemies. (Psalm 3:8)
- Ask God to turn the hearts of world leaders from indifference to indignation that leads to action. (Proverbs 21:1)
- Pray for God to pour out His Spirit mightily on the majority Lao people, emboldening the Lao Church and opening Lao hearts to receive the gospel.
Sources: 24-7 Prayer, Operation World, Wikipedia, Country Reports on Terrorism 2006, International Religious Freedom Report 2007, World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, Open Doors, The World Factbook