Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Remember those in chains: Pastor Thongchan (Laos)

ThongchanBefore becoming a pastor, Thongchan was a district governor in Laos. He became a Christian in 1997 through the ministry of the Far Eastern Broadcasting Company. Thong wanted desperately to bring new hope to the villagers in his province through the power of the Gospel. But when his church began to grow, local authorities took exception to his evangelistic witness and detained him for ‘illegal activities against the Government’. He was accused of receiving training from foreign countries in order to convert the Laotian people, turning them away from Communism. On June 8, 1999 Thong was arrested and charged with being a paid activist. He was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment in a prison, which specializes in punishing those who are thought to have betrayed the nation of Laos.

The first five months of his imprisonment were very difficult for Pastor Thongchang. He was kept in a darkened cell. Many times he was beaten, and whilst in his cell his hands were manacled and his feet shackled. His days of solitary confinement meant little food and regular interrogations about his faith. Most people however, understood that the charges against him were false and that his only desire was to share the Gospel.

At the time of his arrest, two of his friends and fellow pastors, Nhot (73) and Lu (64) were arrested and imprisoned with him. Sadly both men died during their time in prison.

His wife Saengkham lives a short distance from the prison and is permitted to visit her husband regularly. She takes food and medical supplies to him. Thong now works outside the prison, under guard, as a pig farmer. As he works faithfully on the farm and inside the prison itself, Pastor Thongchan seeks to live out his faith and to share the love of God with those around him. He is now seen as a man who can be trusted and any come to him to talk about their needs. Several sick prisoners have received healing as a result of his prayers. Even the guards and police have asked him to pray for their families. Recently the authorities allowed Saengkham to bring her husband to the local Udomxai hospital for treatment for an eye problem. The family has asked us to pray that he would be permitted to receive further treatment in the hospital in the capital Vientiane.

Please pray

  • That the authorities would shorten the sentence and release Thongchan
  • For healing in regard to all health problems
  • For his wife Saengkham and for the Laotian church

Please write

When writing please do not mention The Voice of the Martyrs, or advance your political opinion or include anything which could be insulting to the authorities. Over recent months there has been increasing pressure on Christians in Laos, particularly those living in the more rural areas and provincial districts.

You can send a card to encourage him to:

Pastor Thongchan
Ban Na Prison
Muang Xai, Udomxai, Laos

You may also send a letter on his behalf to the Laotian ambassador:

His Excellency Phiane Philakone
Embassy of the Lao People's Democratic Republic
2222 S Street N.W.
Washington, D.C.
DC 20008
United States of America

Here is a sample letter

Your Excellency,

I would like to express my concern about Mr Thongchan who was arrested on the 8th of June1999 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in Ba Na Prison.

I am extremely concerned by his punishment when, according to my information, Mr Thongchan is a much loved, respected and law-abiding citizen who has not been involved in any crime but has been targeted in this way because of his Christian beliefs. It is my understanding that he is held in high regard in the prison and his behaviour is exemplary. Given the fact that he has already served two thirds of his sentence, I respectfully petition your involvement in this case to persuade the Laotian government to consider him for early release.

I am thankful that the Laotian authorities kindly permitted him to receive recent medical attention in a local hospital and would ask that he is allowed to receive whatever further treatment is needed.

Yours sincerely,

For more help on how to write to and on behalf of prisoners of faith, click here.

(Source: Release International, VOMC’s sister mission in the United Kingdom)

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