Authorities in the Asian country of Laos detained at least seven Christians before and after a Christmas worship service.
A group of nine police officers stormed into a holiday church service in Nakanong Village last Saturday, at around 6 p.m., according to Human Rights Watcher for Lao Religious Freedom. At that point, three church leaders were taken into custody.
Just a mere two hours later, officers returned and arrested four more Christians. All the detainees were held at the Phin district police headquarters.
The alleged reason for the Christians’ detention was because they gathered illegally for a worship service not approved by the Lao government.
But they weren’t done yet. The authorities reportedly returned around 10 p.m., when they destroyed the stage, broke sound equipment, stole three mobile phones, and cut power lines.
It should be noted that, in December 2017, an unnamed Phin district official told Radio Free Asia that Christians “are still restricted” in the area.
“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,” the official claimed.
This is not the first time such arrests have taken place. In 2017, a group of five Christians were arrested in the Non Soung village of the Phin district, Radio Free Asia reported. They were detained after a group from one village invited a pastor from a neighboring area to help organize Christmas celebrations.
“As a rule, villagers can hold Christmas celebrations only in their own village,” an unnamed source explained to the news outlet. “People from other villages are not allowed to come over.”
According to Open Doors’ World Watch List, which tracks the most religiously oppressive nations around the globe, Laos comes in at No. 20 out of 50 countries. The leading religion in the communist country is Buddhism. There are roughly 225,000 known Christians in Laos.