Laos
Lao Peoples Democratic Republic
July 23
Asia


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 236,800 sq.km. Narrow landlocked country mainly between Thailand and Vietnam. Mountainous and 55% forested.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 5,433,036 +2.62% 23 per sq. km.
2010 6,964,623 +2.49% 29 per sq. km.
2025 9,652,526 +1.97% 41 per sq. km.

Capital Vientiane 286,000. Urbanites 22%.

PEOPLES

A complex mix of 138 groups, compounded by government classifications based on altitude of home environment.

Lao-Tai 58.9%. Lao 2.3 mill.; Tai(15) 454,500; Phutai 154,400; Lu 134,400; Phuan 112,800.

Mon-Khmer 30.8%. Khmu(6) 627,800; So 120,000; Katang 107,400; Mangkong 104,000; Viet 89,000; Bru 75,200; Suay 51,200.

Hmong-Mien 7.1%. Hmong Daw (White Miao) 191,000; Hmong Hjua (Blue Miao) 163,800.

Sino-Tibetan 2.7%. Akha(12) 74,300; Phunoi 40,100.

Other 0.5%. Chinese, Caucasians.

Literacy 57%. Official language Lao. All languages 92, also many dialects. Languages with Scripture 10Bi 8NT 11por 16 w.i.p.

ECONOMY

Subsistence agricultural economy with a growing tourist trade. The Vietnam war and its aftermath combined to make Laos the poor relation of Southeast Asia. The economy is slowly opening up to market forces, but not enough to counteract high inflation, a weak currency, and profit-skimming by those in power. HDI 0.491; 140th/174. Public debt 117% of GNP. Income/person $400 (1.3% of USA).

POLITICS

Independent from France in 1954. Lao and Vietnamese Communist forces were in complete control by 1975. There is a history of anti-government guerrilla activity in the northwest which has increased since 1998. The government leans heavily on Vietnam for policy direction, but indications are that many Laotians desire otherwise. The Communist leaders are still in full political control despite economic liberalisation.

RELIGION

Communist persecution of Christians was especially harsh between 1975 and 1978. Restrictions eased after that time, though the churches are still seen as potentially subversive, and are watched. Buddhism is regaining some of its old influence, but is heavily syncretized with animism. In the late 1990s persecution significantly increased and the government is intent on the complete elimination of any Christian presence in the country. Persecution Index 18th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Buddhist 61.05 3,316,868 +3.1%
Traditional ethnic 31.20 1,695,107 +1.8%
non-Religious/other 4.20 228,188 +1.2%
Christian 1.85 100,511 +5.9%
Muslim 1.10 59,763 +4.6%
Chinese 0.50 27,165 -2.6%
Baha'i 0.10 5,433 +2.6%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 6 0.82 45 +8.1%
Independent 1 0.37 20 +10.8%
Catholics 1 0.66 36 +1.8%

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Lao Evangelical P 550 22,000 44,000
Catholic C 25 20,930 36,000
Indigenous groups I 500 10,000 20,000
Seventh-day Adventist P 1 192 400
Other denoms [4]   4 190 420
Total Christians [8]   1,080 53,312 100,820

Trans-bloc Groupings pop.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical 1.2 63 +8.8%
Charismatic 0.3 19 +9.4%


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Answers to Prayer

1 The church has grown despite restrictions and persecution. After the Communist takeover, two-thirds of believers fled the country, but there have been reports of people movements and whole villages turning to Christ. Many unreached people groups are being evangelized. Much of this is due to the initiative of indigenous believers. Amongst the Khmu tribe there has been a considerable turning to Christ!

Challenges for Prayer

1 Much of Laos is still unevangelized. After years of hard work missionaries saw significant breakthroughs among the Hmong and Khmu, but since 1975 little could be done by expatriates. Christianity has not moved easily across the diverse ethno-linguistic boundaries, leaving many groups completely unreached. Pray that the entire country may be made open for the gospel to be proclaimed.

2 The Church has suffered much since the Communist takeover. Christianity has been labelled “a lying religion which violates Lao custom” and declared the number one enemy of the state. The church in Ventiane has been infiltrated by government spies, and persecution and incarceration of believers has intensified in the last few years. In 2000 there were 24 confirmed cases of imprisonment of some its leaders. Yet the church grows and spreads. Pray for:

a) Perseverance and grace for those suffering from the government's heavy hand.

b) Increased freedom for evangelism, church planting and building – presently forbidden. Many churches have been forcibly closed and believers now meet quietly in homes in many areas. Some ethnic minority Christians have been compelled to relocate in other areas.

c) A vision and burden for evangelizing the many ethnic minorities.

d) An effective unity among the leaders of evangelical churches and house groups in Laos.

3 Leaders for the churches. Over 90% of all trained leaders left Laos in 1975. Today, leaving the country for training is difficult and dangerous. Recently over 200 Laotians were trained in church planting and leadership based on a house church model. Pray that these methods, supplemented by TEE and radio, might equip leaders thoroughly for their ministry. A Catholic seminary opened in 1998 to train Laotian priests. Pray that permission might be granted soon for the establishment of an evangelical Bible school.

4 Christian work is not officially permitted, but a number of expatriate believers are helping in areas from agricultural development to removing undetonated American bombs dropped during the Vietnam war, the opportunities are many, but the government vacillates between the great need of Laos and its desire for self-sufficiency. Pray for a reopened door for Bible translators, pioneer church planters and Bible teachers – the spiritual ministries of greatest need. Pray also for wisdom for expatriates in their activities, decisions, and their relating to Lao Christian leaders.

5 Unreached peoples:

a) The Lao – the nation's dominant people, are described as gentle and peace-loving, but the anti-Christian government, and the passive nature of the Lao, are major obstacles to their evangelization. There are maybe 3-4,000 Christians among them, and they could be a key to bringing the gospel to the rest of Laos.

b) The Tai tribes speaking 15 languages. There are 200 Christians out of the ½ million people.

c) The mountain dwelling Hmong are known for their resistance, sometimes violent, to Communism and government control. Almost all Hmong Christians fled Laos in 1975, and about a quarter of all the diaspora are believers today. Although the proportion of Christians is lower among them in Laos, the Hmong are the most responsive peoples in the country.

d) The northern peoples, many of whom have responded to the gospel in China and Thailand. Political conditions have never allowed missionary work; pray that this may change.

e) The small southern tribes were being evangelized for the first time from 1957-1963, but war prevented the planting of churches among most of them. They are deeply enmeshed in the fear of spirits; pray that they might find freedom through Jesus.

f) The Vietnamese and Chinese have only been marginally evangelized.

6 Christian Help ministries.

a) Media ministries are proving to be effective in evangelism, including literature, cassettes and radio. Pray that many may come into the Kingdom.

b) Bible and literature distribution. The UBS and the Bible League distribute Bibles, and from 1997 to 2000 over 200,000 pieces of literature were hand-carried into Laos. AsiaLink is an agency deeply committed to literature ministry for Laotians. Pray for the free and widespread distribution of all Christian literature.

c) Bible translation. The local linguistic situation is highly complex. A number of organizations are seeking to address this need. There are 21 languages for which there is a definite need for translation teams and possibly a further 17 languages will need them. Pray for the effective use of all available tools in speeding up the process of making God's Word available.

d) GRN which has prepared audio-messages in 92 languages and dialects of Laos. This is a vital ministry in a nation where literacy is relatively low.

e) Christian Radio. FEBC broadcasts 20 hours weekly in Lao, Hmong, Khmu, Lahu and Mien. Believers are being arrested for listening to Christian radio such that some churches are recommending people do not listen. Pray for the safety of those listening and for this spiritual pressure to lift.

f) The JESUS film is available in Lao and Hmong, and is being produced in several more languages.

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