Sandwiched between Thailand and Vietnam, the 7 million people of Laos are every bit as poor as Cambodians, but far less aid reaches this reclusive land. Its human rights abuses, atrocities and persecutions happen under the radar. An old Marxist-Stalinist regime is still in power, but things are somewhat better now than 15 years ago, and certainly better than in the ‘deep, dark night’ 1975-1990 when Christianity was practically wiped out. 60% of the people are ethnic Laotians while the rest are tribal – numerous ethnic groups. Immorality, drunkenness and hopelessness are rife through the country.
Laotians are predominantly Buddhists (or these days also atheists) but Christian growth since 1990 has been phenomenal – from near zero to about 300,000 all up, 4% of the population. The Catholic Church stayed very small, while Protestantism has boomed both in the underground churches and the government approved Lao Evangelical Church (LEC) which alone has well over 200,000 members. Denominations (like Lutheran) are outlawed but we can work with the LEC. Christianity presents a united front and this has helped church growth tremendously. Without hardly any Christian literature around and with evangelism forbidden, the young people just come, turning to Christ to seek a new life.
AFA Action: We work with the Rev Kingphet Thammavong in the capital Vientiane, a leader in the LEC. He says, ‘My passion is for the young, the church of tomorrow.’ With AFA finance he established CLACC (Christ’s Love for All Compassion Centre) to make and mould young people from poor village backgrounds into productive, influential members of church and society – people with a mission. In the future Rev Kingphet would like to reach the hundreds and thousands of the lost young people of Laos starting in his area. His ministry is about changing lives, changing communities, even Laos itself.