June 14, 2013

Laos and Christianity

June 14, 2013

LAOS-550x388Laos is a nation with a population of 6 million. Compared to Cambodia (14 million), Vietnam (87 million), and Thailand (69 million), Laos is just a wee little place. But it holds a rich culture in a pristine land.

It is known as a communist state, although capitalism has been making an appearance more and more in the last decade. As the one of the poorest countries in East Asia it is struggling to find its place in the ever-changing global political landscape.

The president is Choummaly Sayasone who is also the head of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (LPRP).

The USA does not hold close ties with Laos but a diplomatic-level relationship does exist.

The people of Laos remain largely unaltered by the industrial revolution that has drastically transformed much of the Western world. They live simply and practically. The land is sparsely populated and mostly agricultural. They are a spiritual people and are closely connected their environments and to the natural world. Roughly half of the population of Laos adhere to a set of Buddhist beliefs and half to animistic beliefs. The Laotian government however is communist and although it is permitted to follow Christ, persecution still exists for the Church.

According to Persecution.com, Christians are “tortured, harassed, evicted from homes and villages, denied education opportunities, arrested and forced to deny their faith.”

Because of this Laotians who choose to follow Christ know that there is cost to count. Because the cost is real, their walk tends to also be real.

Laos people in the east and northeast suffer heavily from unexploded ordinance left behind from the mass bombings initiated by the U.S. government during the Vietnam war era. Many victims are children playing the in fields, and farmers plowing rice paddies or starting fires. The bombs dropped are known as “cluster bombs” which are designed to cause injury instead of death. There are two primary organizations which work to remove ordinance and educate the locals from such organizations as UXO Laos (a government-backed program) and MAG International (a Quaker and Mennonite backed program).

Laos is considered very poor country with a widening income disparity between the few urban centers and the rural areas. However, reports are showing improvement.