Bordered by Cambodia, China, Vietnam and Thailand, Laos is a landlocked, communist country in Southeast Asia. Officially called Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Transparency International labelled Laos as one of the most corrupt nations in the world.
Last year, the government charged five church leaders with practicing medicine without a license because they prayed for a sick woman.
Morning Star News is reporting on a legal decision that came down February 12, 2015, the five Christians were each fined US$62 and sentenced to nine months in jail. The group must also pay the family of the deceased woman US$2,448 for emotional distress and funeral costs.
A woman who went by the name Chansee from the village of Saisomboon had been sick for two years. Local doctors had been unable to deal with the woman’s deteriorating condition.
Two of her children are Christian and on June 19, 2014, Chansee, now gravely ill, accepted Christ. She asked the pastor of the village church to pray for her. A woman pastor Kaithong Khounphaisane along with leaders from four other churches in nearby villages prayed for Chansee.
When her condition did not improve, Chansee was transported to the hospital. But there was nothing that could be done and she died two days later on June 21, 2014.
The Laos Ministry of Health became involved when complaints were raised that by praying for the woman, the five Christians were practicing medicine without a license. The authorities arrested the five and put them in stocks.
Without proving that prayer is a form of medical practice or if prayer in any way affected the woman’s health, a judge found the five guilty. The five Christians were not allowed a lawyer to defend their case.
But, there is more to the story. Morning Star reports the real issue was the five Christian’s faith, in this largely Buddhist nation.
Since Christians are not allowed to be buried in the local village cemetery, the Christian children of Chansee had received permission from village leaders to provide a christian burial on the family property.
However, on the morning of the funeral the village chief, along with communist party representatives, showed up and denied permission unless the Christian children recanted their Christian faith. They refused.
Though initially stopped, the family decided to have the Christian burial two days later. Communist officials arrived, stopped the funeral and then arrested the five Christian leaders who had prayed for Chansee also in attendance.
A short time later, Buddhist monks along with the village chief seized the body of Chansee and provided her a Buddhist burial in the village cemetery.
The charges were brought against the five by two children of Chansee’s family who are not Christian. The Christian children refused to press charges.