Two teenage sisters in Laos have recounted how their own family have tied them up and locked them out of the house for four days after they converted to Christianity.
Nani, 17, recently shared with Open Doors USA how she and her 16-year-old sister, Nha Phong, were persecuted by their own family when they abandoned animism for Christianity after hearing the Gospel from a cousin in 2016.
"My cousin told me about the Good News. He is a pastor in a church located in a village near ours. I liked what I heard very much, and that´s why I became a believer," Nani narrated.
Although the sisters had not been Christians for very long, Nani had already begun leading worship at the church, while Nha Phong had started taking care of the children in Sunday school.
However, their family, especially their father, had strongly opposed their decision to leave animism. Nani said that a cousin and a nephew had threatened to hit her and force her out of the church if she does not return to her old religion.
The cousin did not carry out the threat at the time, but three weeks later, several cousins and family members secretly followed the sisters when they went to worship and dragged them out of the church.
"They tied us up and my dad hit my sister, but he didn't hit me. I don't know why," Nani recalled. The sisters were then taken back to the village, where they were separated and kept tied up for several days.
"They took me to my uncle's house and asked me over and over again: 'Do you still believe in God?' They threatened me and told me that unless I renounced my new faith, they would keep me tied up," Nha Phong said.
The sisters were eventually released after four days, but the family has not made it easy for them to practice their new faith.
Nani said that their father does not want a Bible around the house, so he hid it in a place where she could not find it, but she found it later and she was able to read the Bible again.
She said that it was really hard for them not to obey their father, who is the head of the family, but they want to obey Jesus more than anyone.
"We know that Jesus died for us, and we do not want to go back to our old religion. Even if it is difficult, we want to follow Jesus," Nani said.
While their father has been strongly opposed to their decision to convert to Christianity, their mother appeared to have shown some interest in the faith. She has followed the sisters to church on a few occasions, but she has not yet converted to Christianity.
Nha Phong said that the village leader warned their mother that they could be thrown in jail if they continue attending worship services.
In May, the authorities reportedly arrested the sisters, along with seven other Christians. The sisters escaped to another village shortly after their release, and they are now residing in their Christian cousins' village.
Open Doors noted that sharing the Gospel can be a huge challenge in Laos, where Buddhism, animistic beliefs and practices, are deeply ingrained "in the thinking and culture of society."
The organization has ranked Laos in the World Watch List as the 24th nation where Christians face the most persecution.
Operation World noted that Buddhism makes up more than 57 percent of the population in Laos. About 34 percent of the population practices indigenous religions, and only 3.4 percent is Christian.