Laotians see a new beginning for churchCanadian Mennonite and Lao Mennonite Conference of Canada
Laotian Mennonites in Canada have taken the first step in proposing to the Laotian government that the Mennonite church be registered in that country.
Chinda Kommala, president of the new Lao Mennonite Conference of Canada, and a delegation of other Canadian Mennonites spent two weeks in March in Laos, where they met with numerous government officials, including the director general of religious affairs.
“Many Christian leaders doubted the wisdom of meeting directly with the religious affairs committee,” Kommala said. “Nevertheless this meeting may have marked a new beginning for Mennonites in Laos. LMCC asks for ongoing prayers for the people as well as for the government of Laos and for the future of the Mennonite church in that country.”
Kommala presented the government officials with a copy of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, the Confession used by Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. In return they received a copy of the government guide for the management and protection of religious activities in Laos.
The majority of people in Laos are Buddhist; 2 percent are Christian, according to U.S. State Department figures.
Laos is run by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party, and its constitution allows for freedom of religion. Yet some government officials have restricted free religious practice, particularly at a local level, targeting Christians in rural areas, according to an Oct. 26 U.S. State Department report.
“It was a historic moment to meet with socialist leaders of Laos and openly talk about church,” said Brian Bauman, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada mission minister, who was part of the Canadian delegation.
Lao government officials asked the delegates to tell others they do not oppose religion, said Paul Wideman, one of the delegates.
“They do want all religions in Laos to teach friendship and unity,” Wideman said. “I think these are qualities which Mennonites can endorse.”
Contributing: MWR staff
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