Today is religious Freedom Day – Not in Laos, where Four Christian men in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have been languishing in jail for months because they wanted to hold a Christian funeral. UK Minister says he has “reiterated concerns around restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in Laos….specifically referencing ending the incidence of detaining or imprisoning Christians for unauthorised religious activities.”

Oct 27, 2020 | Uncategorized

Today is religious Freedom Day – Not in Laos, where Four Christian men in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have been languishing in jail for months because they wanted to hold a Christian funeral
A group of young Christian men pray secretly inside a forest in Laos.
Photograph UCA News
Jailed for holding a Christian funeral in communist Laos
https://www.southeastasianews.net/news/266708679/lao-christians-arrested-held-in-jail-for-planning-funeral-rites

Four Christian men in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have been languishing in jail for months because they wanted to hold a Christian funeral, which officials said would have violated local customs and traditions. Christianity has been widely portrayed by local officials and media alike as an alien religion in communist Laos, whose population is predominantly Buddhist and animist. The four Christians were detained in early July in Khammouane province after they had traveled to a village to participate in the last rites for a deceased fellow believer. Provincial officials deemed the Christian ceremony to be against local customs and arrested the four visitors on sight. The men have not been formally charged with any crime, yet remain incarcerated pending the authorities’ decision on how to proceed.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL9005):

Question by Lord Alton of Liverpool:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the religious freedom of minorities in Laos; and what representations they have made to the government of Laos about its duty to uphold Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (HL9005)

Tabled on: 12 October 2020

Answer:
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon:

We have encouraged the Lao Government to fulfil all of its international human rights obligations, including during the British Ambassador’s call on the Lao Foreign Minister in late 2019. The UK made a statement at the 45th session of the Human Rights Council in Sep-Oct 2020, which reiterated concerns around restrictions on freedom of opinion and expression in Laos.

In the questions submitted to the Universal Periodic Review of Laos in January this year, we asked what steps the Lao Government was taking to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion or belief, specifically referencing ending the incidence of detaining or imprisoning Christians for unauthorised religious activities. We welcome Laos’ engagement with the Universal Periodic Review process.

Date and time of answer: 26 Oct 2020 at 14:51.

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