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VietnamMap reflects the 30 most recent Persecution Reports. Click HERE for the Map Legend.
One of the few remaining communist countries in the world, Vietnam is aggressively trying to stifle the cry of its people for increased human rights and freedoms, consequently furthering the persecution of Christians.
A Christian human rights lawyer, Nguyen Van Dai, was blocked by Vietnamese security agents from visiting with a high ranking U.S. diplomat earlier this month. The incident is yet another indication of just how much control the Vietnamese government exerts over citizens who stand up to defend human rights and religious freedom.
14 Catholic and Protestant activists in Vietnam have had their appeal hearings postponed indefinitely by Vietnam's supreme court this week. The Christians were arrested for being members of a pro-democracy group that is illegal in Vietnam and convicted of plotting to "overthrow" the Vietnamese government back in January. It is not uncommon to find Christians in positions as activists in countries like Vietnam and China where their religious convictions lead them to vocally support greater political and religious freedoms.
The death in police custody of Hmong Christian and church leader Hoang Van Ngai last month has revealed just how brutal treatment of Christians in Vietnam's Central Highlands and Northwest Mountainous Region can be. Ngai's brother has revealed that he was arrested as the same time as Ngai and witnessed the badly bruised and beaten body of his brother being dragged out of the station by police. ICC joins with other human rights groups in calling for Vietnam to immediately halt the arbitrary arrest of religious minorities and to ensure that they are protected against violent abuse at the hands of local authorities.
On March 17th a Vietnamese Christian and church elder died while in police custody. Reports indicate he was severely beaten and electrocuted by police. Although the motive for his arrest and torture is unclear, Christian members of the Hmong ethnic group living in the Central Highlands and Northwest Mountainous Region of Vietnam are often subject to harassment, arrest, and other harsh treatment as a result of their faith, which the Vietnamese government views with suspicion. Reports of this kind are rare however, as even providing the report can be dangerous for those Christians connected to the incident.
A Christian leader belonging to the Hmong ethnic group was brutally murdered by Vietnamese police earlier this month. Sources say Vam Ngaij Vaj, a church elder, was beaten and likely tortured using electric shock before his death on March 17th. It was not immediately clear why police had chosen to target Vaj specifically, but for years Communist authorities have suppressed and persecuted Hmong Christians in both Central and Northern Vietnam.
Maria Tan spent years publicly criticizing corrupt government and business practices before she was put on trial last summer and sentenced to ten years in prison. Last week the State Department recognized Maria as one of the "10 most courageous women in the world" for her strong stance on human rights despite severe government pressure to remain silent. Many Christians in both Vietnam and China have risked their lives and led the way in calling for greater religious and political freedoms.
The following article provides an in-depth analysis of Decree 92, a new religion law passed in Vietnam that went into effect on January 1st. One long-time missionary to the country says the Decree is designed to allow the Communist Party to carefully control the spread of religion, especially Christianity. While the Vietnamese government has done its best to hide religious persecution, ICC regularly collects reports of Vietnamese Christians facing harassment physical violence, and imprisonment for refusing to abandon their faith.
Five newly converted Christian families in the Central Highlands of Vietnam have faced days of harassment and physical violence by their neighbors after their decision to follow Christ aggravated fellow villagers. Communist government officials have not bothered to step in and stop the attacks despite calls for help. It is not uncommon in Vietnam for Communist authorities, who are already suspicious of certain ethnic groups and hostile towards Christianity, to encourage and even participate in attacking Christians.
Father Thadeus Nguyen Van Ly has spent more than 15 years in prison for standing up on behalf or religious freedom and human rights in Vietnam. Father Ly has been partially paralyzed by strokes suffered while imprisoned and Vietnam has ignored calls by the United Nations and others for his release.
In recent months, Vietnam’s government has passed a new religion law, demolished a historic monastery, and sentenced dozens of activists, some of them Christians, to multiple years of imprisonment. This series of events has led many of the country's Christians to fear that Vietnam is actually headed towards even greater persecution of religious minorities in the future.
With prison sentences being handed down to Christian human rights bloggers and a new religion law making it even more difficult for “illegal” house churches to register with the government, Vietnam is quickly regressing in the area of civil liberties. Human Rights Watch on reports condemns these recent trends and points out that U.S. and other Western investors have long been spending large amounts of money in Vietnam without concern for human rights issues.
Thousands of Catholics gathered in Ho Chi Minh City on Sunday to pray for the release of imprisoned Christian bloggers and greater religious freedom in their still Communist nation. The gathering was prompted by the recent destruction of a Catholic monastery and the imprisonment of Catholic bloggers on trumped up charges.
Even as Vietnam’s general secretary visits the Pope in Rome, Christians are trying not to fear the worse from a new religion decree that looks set to make things even more difficult for churches in the country. Decree 92 essentially requires churches to operate illegally for years before they can be given recognition and is probably aimed at eliminating house churches all-together.
The General Secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, visited Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Tuesday in what Christians inside Vietnam are calling an attempt to cover over religious repression in the country. The visit was censored and unpublished in Vietnamese news outlets even though the rest of the Vietnamese government’s official visit to Italy was reported. Catholics point out that a string of recent incidents and a new religion law indicate that religious freedom and persecution is only growing worse in this Communist nation.
The Communist government of Vietnam has long faced criticism from the countries Catholic population for seizing large amounts of Church owned land and destroying church property in order to develop state directed projects. The Carmelite monastery of Hanoi is more than a hundred years old and was held by the Church until being forcibly seized. According to this report the government intends to completely destroy "all traces" of the monastery.
Amid a campaign to arrest Christians, Vietnam’s communist government has implemented a new decree, giving authorities greater control over people’s religious lives in an apparent move to emulate China.
Le Quoc Quan began refusing food and water five days ago to protest his imprisonment under the charge of tax evasion. Trumped up charges such as this are often used to imprison Vietnamese citizens like Quan, a Christian blogger and human rights activist who has been jailed before after speaking up against the ruling Communist Party.
Thanks to widespread government monitoring of communication within Vietnam, it is often difficult to obtain reports of persecution. However it is clear that repression of Christian churches is still common, especially among the Hmong ethnic group. Now a new religion law is going into effect which enhances the already strict laws governing religious events and includes new requirements making it harder for foreigners to hold religious conferences in the country.
Throughout South-East Asia it is not uncommon to see Christian activists arrested for speaking out about violations of human rights and religious freedom. Many are often driven by their Biblical worldview and Christian values to speak out against oppressive systems of government, for which they face unrelenting persecution. The fourteen Catholic bloggers in this case are an example.
Despite greatly expanding it's economy and encouraging Western tourism, the government of Vietnam remains mostly hostile to the spread of Christianity. This has led to tight restrictions on holding unregistered church services and evangelizing. Some ICC sources report dozens of pastors currently remain imprisoned for refusing to shut down their "illegal" churches and recant their faith.
In a devastating step backward for religious freedom in Vietnam, the countries prime minister has issued "Decree 92" which further enforces vague laws allowing the government to crack down on religious groups, including Christians, who are not registered with the government. The registration process itself is extremely difficult and not impossible to complete. For instance if a church wished to legally register it must prove that it has been operating for at least 20 years without breaking the law, yet operating without being registered is breaking the law. This catch-22 and other language in the legislation has been used by Vietnamese authorities to intimidate and arrest dozens of Christian pastors.
Four more ethnic Hmong Christians have been sentenced to several years in prison for participating in a large gathering of Hmong Christians last year. They join eight other Hmong Christians who were arrested for participating in the event. Vietnamese authorities have long been working to discourage the growth of Christianity among the Hmong ethnic group, which has experienced something of a revival over the past thirty years. Tactics include arresting or intimidating new converts and pressuring them to renounce their faith in Christ.
Father Etienne Chan Tin’s funeral was attended by thousands of Vietnamese Christians who saw the Catholic priest as a symbol of their struggle for religious freedom and human rights. Vietnam’s Communist government continues to tightly control and monitor Christian activities. While many churches are able to operate undisturbed, others, especially in sensitive political areas, are shut down or destroyed arbitrarily.
A new law, known as Decree 92, that broadly calls for various restrictions on religious freedom will go into force on January 1st of 2013 in Vietnam. According to Christians in the country, the law gives government officials broad powers to control religious groups and is modeled after Chinese legislation. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has recommended that Vietnam be placed on the State Departments list of countries of particular concern for its egregious violation of religious freedoms. Many Christian pastors, especially among the ethnic Hmong, remain imprisoned for refusing to stop spreading the Gospel.
Despite doing an excellent job of convincing the international community that religious freedom is growing, Vietnam continues to harass, arrest, and imprison Christians for spreading the gospel or speaking up for their rights. Christian leaders are monitored and questioned by secret police and many pastors, especially of the Hmong ethnic group, are languishing in prison for refusing to recant their faith and stop sharing the Gospel message.
"On my job I suffer injustice because of my faith. But when I think of the martyrs of Vietnam, of these saints who have been faithful and loyal in following Jesus, I feel comforted. They accepted to be condemned and killed rather than to renounce their faith.” These words from a current Vietnamese Christian refer to the thousands of martyrs who died bringing Christianity to Vietnam. The Communist Party of Vietnam continues to persecute the countries Christian population through harassment and imprisonment.
An upcoming visit by the president of the European Union to Vietnam has provided another opportunity for Western governments to bring up the issue of Vietnam’s treatment of religious minorities, including Christians. The government of Vietnam receives relatively little scrutiny despite the unending arrest and harassment of Christians around the country by both local and federal officials.
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ICC is constantly monitoring the state of Christian persecution in countries around the world and looking for ways that we can act as bridge between our supporters and the persecuted church. Beyond the projects you see above, we are working in many other areas to provide practical assistance to our brothers and sisters in Christ. View our other projects page to understand more of our work and keep up to date on our current projects.