March 7, 2012
A pastor has been released from prison in Laos after being locked up for nearly 13 years because of his Christian activities, ASSIST News Service reports. Bounchan Kanthavong was set free Feb. 2, having been arrested in June 1999 and sentenced to 12 years in jail for treason and sedition. According to the ministry Barnabas Fund, Bounchan's only "crimes" appear to have been receiving Bible training and sharing his faith with customers in his clothing shop; his actions were perceived as a threat to national security and the traditional Lao religion of spirit worship, and were thus interpreted as treason. Lao authorities warned him repeatedly to stop practicing and sharing Christianity, and ordered him to cease all worship activities at his shop, but his witness led to around 70 people accepting Christ. Following his arrest, his wife took over the leadership of their Christian community, which has grown to more than 3,000 believers today. Bounchan refused to renounce Christ to leave prison early, and his health suffered during his time in jail.