The global threat from radical Islamic terror in Southeast Asia has overshadowed many of the region’s other problems. Religious persecution is one growing crisis that should not be overlooked by Washington and the West. Laos and Vietnam, for example, are still run by ruthless Communist regimes that do not allow freedom of religion. While these Communist nations are working to increase ties to the civilized world, they — like China — continue to step up their oppression of Christians.
Last month in Laos, Nambak District officials ordered 35 Christian families in the village of Nam Thuam to publicly renounce their faith. When they refused, the government assigned agents to live in the households to prevent them from practicing their religion. The families are forced by the Communists to pay for the spies living in their own homes until they formally turn their backs on God. In the village of Thong Sa Vang, officials have confiscated Bibles and threatened believers with arrest if they do not reject Christianity. One villager who fled his home to avoid the Communist aggression told Christian Freedom International (CFI), “If I return to Thong Sa Vang I will be killed or arrested.” He already has spent several years in prison because of his religious beliefs. Across Laos, Christians are routinely forced into slave labor or forced at gunpoint to disparage God.
The situation in neighboring Vietnam is equally grim. According to CFI President Jim Jacobson, “Vietnam is engaging in a systematic genocidal crackdown against minority Christians in the Central Highlands.” The Christian Montagnards of Vietnam’s Central Highlands have long been persecuted by the Communist government because they were staunch allies of the United States during the long Vietnam War. On Easter Sunday, hundreds of Christians were killed or disappeared in Buon Ma Thuot village during a peaceful demonstration protesting the confiscation of their ancestral lands. Around Christmas, pastors were rounded up and jailed and churches bulldozed. Hundreds of churches have been closed over the past few years. A few thousand Christians have tried to flee across the border to Cambodia, but the government there sends the refugees back to imprisonment in Vietnam.
In Communist states, the persecution is getting worse. That should give pause to all of us in the free world.