BACKGROUND: Laos is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. Wages are low and goods are expensive. There is no industrial sector, and the country’s infrastructure and education system are weak. There is, however, a large tourist industry. Laos has a substantial drug trade and is home to dozens of people groups.
MAJOR RELIGIONS: Most Laotians consider themselves Buddhist, but they practice a syncretistic version of Buddhism mixed with tribal animism.
PERSECUTOR: Most believers are persecuted by family members or village authorities who are concerned that Christianity offends the spirits. The central government persecutes Christians occasionally, but there are signs that this is improving.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN IN LAOS: Christianity is viewed as an American religion or as a tool of the CIA. Laotians also believe Christians anger the spirits. House churches and church buildings exist, but the vast majority do not have a trained pastor. Most pastors have little schooling. The church leader is typically the oldest or wealthiest person in the community. In most villages, no church buildings are allowed. If village leaders notice that a house church is growing, they will try to stop it. Christians have difficulty providing for themselves and their family. They often are unable to get jobs, most of which are through the government. Christians commonly are denied medical treatment, education and other social services. There are no open Bible schools in the country. The Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) is the only government-recognized church. Lao believers are often arrested and held for up to a week. Longer periods of imprisonment are becoming less common.
ACCESS TO BIBLES: Bibles are not sold in book stores. LEC churches sell Bibles, and other organizations bring Bibles in with legal permission. It’s not a problem to bring one or two Bibles across the border, but Christians encounter problems when they bring in large amounts of Bibles or distribute Bibles in larger numbers.
VOM WORK: VOM distributes Bibles, prints literature and provides audio devices loaded with Scripture and other Christian materials, particularly in minority languages. VOM also provides persecution response. We relocate evicted families, provide food and other immediate needs, and provide additional help on a case-by-case basis.