Prayercast | Laos
Head bowed, palms pressed together in a prayer gesture, and the Laotian words, “sabai di” (good health) are called a nop and are used as a social greeting by Laotians. This narrow landlocked country in Southeast Asia is surrounded by China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar. Laos is mostly mountainous and one of the few communist nations left in the world.Laos was part of French Indochina until communist forces removed the French in 1954. Since 1975, the communists have maintained firm control. Closed for many years, Laos is one of the Asia’s poorest and most underdeveloped nations. Poverty is most prevalent on 5 percent of the land, where 75 percent of the 6.6 million Laotians live and depend on agriculture and natural resources. Economic reforms towards a more free market system have helped to lower poverty in recent years, but the economy still depends heavily on foreign investment and aid. Following the communist takeover, Christianity was declared an enemy of the state. Two thirds of Laos’s Christian believers fled the nation, and those who remained had to meet in secret. Laos’s Buddhist majority was also suppressed. Today, Buddhism, which meshes easily with animist spirit worship, has again become the religion of over one half of Laotians. Christianity is one of four government-approved religions, but open churches are closely scrutinized. Intense persecution and restrictions still occur, mostly at the local level. Despite those pressures, the Church in Laos has shown encouraging growth through the evangelism of indigenous Laotian Christians.