The body of a pastor with an officially recognized church in Laos was recently found with signs that he was tortured and killed for his faith, Morning Star News reported.
Christian leaders and police in central Laos’ Khammouane Province believe Pastor Seetoud, who went by a single name, was killed for spreading the gospel amid rapid church growth in the country.
The pastor had been expected to attend a meeting of Christians on Oct. 20 in Thakhek, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) from his home in Don Keo village, Khammouane Province. When he failed to arrive more than three hours after the start time for the meeting, more than 20 people searched for him on the mountain pass near Don Keo village and at a local hospital, without success.
An area resident later found Pastor Seetoud’s body in a ditch off a mountainous jungle road near the village on Oct. 23, Morning Star News reported.
Two Christians who had planned to leave their village and join Pastor Seetoud for the meeting in Thakhek said he was delayed because two unidentified officials questioned the church leader about his activities and reasons for travel to the town.
A witness from nearby Wangheen village told villagers that he stopped on the road when he saw a black truck with no license plates on Oct. 20, the day the pastor headed for the meeting. He said three men got out and seized another man, violently dumped him into the truck and drove away.
The witness said he assumed the authorities were arresting a drug dealer/criminal. When he later heard about Pastor Seetoud’s death, he told villagers that it was the pastor who was abducted.
The search party found Pastor Seetoud’s Bible near his body and his motorcycle nearby on the road.
He leaves behind a wife and eight children, the youngest a 1-year-old. Pastor Seetoud led a congregation of the Lao Evangelical Church, one of three officially recognized denominations in Laos along with the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Roman Catholic Church.
Persecution of Christians in Laos has increased in the past two years, particularly in the southern part of the country.
Christian leaders in Laos say this is a dangerous time for believers because of rapid church growth. Despite COVID-19 lockdowns in 2021, ministry leaders in Khammouane Province said they baptized thousands of people and planted more than 60 churches.
Laos ranked 26th on Christian support organization’s Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Officially named the Lao People’s Democratic Republic since 1975, the country bordering Thailand, Myanmar and China, is a socialist, authoritarian one-party state.