Lao People's Democratic Republic
Dense jungle and rugged mountains cover most of this landlocked nation. About half of the 5 million inhabitants live on the fertile land along the Mekong River. This communist country is one of the poorest in Asia as a result of the Vietnam War and implementation of Marxist economics. There are 132 people groups, 92 languages and a government classification of persons based on the altitude of their home environment.
Buddhism is the religion of the majority (61 percent), with less than 2 percent being Christian. Village life in Laos has long centered on the Buddhist temple. In policy Laos’ constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but in practice many restrictions exist. The further north one travels, the more intolerant the government becomes. Evangelism, training and church planting are illegal, and many Christians are forced to choose between their life and their faith in Christ. The few Christian churches in the capital city of Vientiane are considered potentially subversive and are closely monitored by the government. House-church meetings are raided, and Laotian Christians are arrested, while foreign Christians are expelled. Communist leaders in some districts have implemented a program called “New Mechanism,” in which anyone who does not convert to Buddhism or animism is forcibly removed from their district. Christian villagers also have been forced to sign a document renouncing their faith. If they refuse, they are forced to leave their homes, and their property is either seized or destroyed.