Imagine having your wife or mother arrested in the middle of the night, never to be heard from again. Her crime? Leading an underground prayer gathering in her home. You fear for her life, praying that she has the strength to endure the likely torture that her captors are inflicting upon her.
People are tortured every day across our world for their faith in Christ – they face horrendous physical tortures that I can’t even begin to comprehend how they survive. I know that Christ gives them the necessary strength to survive the pain they experience, but also the necessary faith to remain strong in their steadfast hope in the One they are suffering on behalf of.
But there is another form of torture we have to consider – the psychological and emotional trauma that those who are not imprisoned and attacked by their enemies experience for the sake of those they have lost. Such is the case of the family and friends of Puih H’Bat – a Degar woman from the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
The Degar, or Montagnards, are an indigenous group that have been brutally colonized by the Vietnamese for decades and have been systematically denied their inherent rights and freedoms. Most Degar are Christians who seek to worship Christ free of the controls of communist-sanctioned churches. They believe that being a part of a government-controlled church is not an option for followers of Christ, so they continue to live out their lives of faithfulness quietly and subversively.
Puih was arrested for such a crime. In 2008, the then-41-year-old mother of four was leading a group of 20 Christians in a prayer meeting in her home. Four Vietnamese security police burst into her home and demanded that all those present sign a document agreeing to follow the government-sanctioned evangelical church, threatening arrest and imprisonment to those who refused. Despite the threats, all the Christians that night refused to sign the document.
The following day, police stormed back into Puih’s home and forcefully arrested her along with two other believers, Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don. They were taken to the local prison, where after torture and continual threats, Ksor Sim and Rahlan Don were released after signing the document.
However, since April 11, 2008, no one has heard from Puih. She was officially sentenced to a five-year sentence for “destruction of the unity of the people’s solidarity.” Her family and friends now live under the torture that the Vietnamese government continually submits them to – the torture of never knowing whether Puih continues to live out her days in Vietnam’s brutal jails, not knowing whether release will truly come in 2013, or whether she has been murdered by a regime that purposefully seeks to stomp out underground Christian movements on false accusations of their political undermining of the current regime. Most Degar fear that Puih has perished in Vietnam’s harsh prison system.
After three years, Puih’s fate remains a mystery. Her family and friends live daily with the torture of the unknown. For the sake of Puih H’Bat, her children, and her husband, we must not let her story be forgotten. We must pray that God opens the hearts of her captors and allows information of her survival, or unfortunate death, to be communicated. We cannot allow them to continue suffering under this torture of the unknown.
Advocacy Officer and Regional Manager of Southeast Asia
We are not supposed to be here today. At least that is what Harold Camping, an 89-year old radio preacher, had told the world. Camping had predicted the end of the world would commence on Saturday, May 21, 2011 with the return of Christ to earth and the rapture of Christians to heaven. He had originally predicted the apocalypse to take place in 1994, but when that day came and went, Camping claimed he had miscalculated and readjusted his prediction to 2011. But Saturday came and went, and no Christians were reported missing.
To most, Christians and non-Christians alike, the entire situation turned out to be nothing more than a passing comment, snide remark, or simple joke. To the majority of Camping’s followers, it was a disappointing and devastating let-down – especially to those who had given away their life savings, had said their final goodbyes, and who expectedly awaited a life free of worries and hurt. But even for them, life goes on.
That is how Camping will likely be remembered – as a cult leader with two failed and false prophesies. A man who led thousands astray. But most of the world will not remember him as a man who contributed to the deaths of Vietnamese Hmong.
Peaceful Gathering of 10,000 Hmong Incites Attacks from Police
For the past month, reports have been pouring out of Vietnam that an unknown number of Hmong Christians have been killed, attacked, or arrested by military forces. The Vietnamese government has closed off outside access to the Muong Nhe District in Dien Bien, where an estimated 10,000 Hmong Christians from the Central Highlands and Dien Bien have been congregating since late April. Insiders who are able to leak information past government forces and media controls have reported that as many as 70 Hmong have been killed so far, though exact numbers cannot be confirmed. These Hmong have also been brutally attacked and arrested by the Vietnamese government, while most are fleeing into hiding to spare their lives. Meanwhile the outside world is unable to send in help.
But why did this even take place? What led 10,000 Hmong Christians to come together in peace yet face such a brutal and violent end? Answer: Harold Camping. Worldwide media have reported on the gathering of Hmong in this region, and ICC sources have confirmed the underlying premise of these gatherings to be primarily due to Mr. Camping’s influence.
Mr. Camping’s prophesies had reached as far as the small and poor mountain villages of the Hmong in Vietnam, and his false teachings had sparked a flame of hope of a better life free of persecution for their faith and poverty for their ethnicity. The Hmong are one of the poorest and most persecuted people groups within Vietnam. The government does not even allow them to have a Bible translated into their native tongue, as most Hmong do not read Vietnamese – thus leaving them in the dark on matters of faith and susceptible to false teachers and doctrine.
They congregated because they believed that the world was coming to an end and that their long-awaited Messiah was coming for them. As they waited, the Vietnamese government grew anxious of such a large congregation of citizens coming together – citizens who they systematically deny their inherent human rights to religious freedom, and to economic and social equality. Murmurs of protests and the birthing of a political separatist movement within the congregated Hmong led the government to quickly take violent action on May 5.
Today, thousands of people are displaced and fearing for their lives, and numerous men, women, and children have been murdered.
We cannot allow the persecution of Hmong Christians to go on. The Vietnamese government must recognize the growing spread of Christianity among the Hmong, allow the printing of the Hmong Bible and other Christian education materials, and allow Christian denominations to provide sound theological education and leadership training to Hmong communities. The world cannot sit idly by as such persecution takes place. Sadly enough, Harold Camping will likely not be the last false prophet to lead astray those who will desperately cling to any small promise of hope because of the horrific reality they face each day in the here and now.
Tai Nguyen, the brother of murdered Nam Nguyen recently testified on this at a congressional hearing. Everyone was in suits and the professional atmosphere made it was awkward to see tears in the eyes of the witness. At first the his speech is in abrupt phrases, but after a few minutes the emotion in his voice bridges any language barrier. He holds up pictures of the event and of his brother, pleading for our help. Congressmen, staffers, and government employees coverd their eyes to wipe away tears. The depth of what was described went far beyond the usual hearing—it moved those who heard it. Below is his firsthand account of the events:
Even though I am living far from my country my heart is always with my homeland.
Since the day the Da Nang government said they would take my parish I and many other people try to do anything we can to protest. I and my younger brother helped bring all this information out so that we can inform the world. The land of our parish [is] a holy land. The land has been built by our ancestors. Therefore this land is the heritage of our people; it is very valuable to each of us. And in this holy land there was a parish church where we practice our religion to help our spirit. The church was very important for our spirit life and is a place of fall back, a place for family, a place for strength, to help our spirit life and our daily life.
Beside the church knows how a place where we bury our ancestors the cemetery of the parish. Our ancestor, our brother and sister, are all lying there when they die so it’s a very important to protect. And this land, this cemetery is not a normal piece of land. It is a heritage of our parish.
Because of all those reasons people of Con Dau do not want, do not allow the government of Da Nang to take away the church and the cemetery. Because of love and justice and we united to protest our land taken away by government of Da Nang
On the 27th of January, 2010, the government of Da Nang bring four hundred police, local police to the village of Con Dau and ask the people of Con Dau to sign the paper to give up the land. And the people of Con Dau were united with each other, to protest and oppose in order of the government of Da Nang. That time the government of Da Nang failed but at the time of the funeral they tried to use this occasion so that they can suppress the people.
The police and people confront each other and the police tried to take away the coffin. They tried to destroy it. The police force report that weapons are there. There are about 500 police force and the local security.
I have the video clip that shows that my younger brother was beaten on his head during the funeral. My brother was beaten and 62 other people were taken away and was beaten a lot more people were beaten. They want to make it disappear that anybody was there.
That day, since one in the morning until one thirty in the afternoon I keep communication with our people in Con Dau. We communicate by phone and my brother informed me that the police, the special anti riot police were coming and surround them.
Three o’clock in the morning police is coming to the cemetery and bring out the elderly, the women and the children and beat them in the cemetery.
I heard the crying of the women on the phone
My young brother was in pain, during crying, they are they’re beat us and they are not allowed anybody to the cemetery. My brothers told me that this way they are going to kill people of our village. The last words I heard from my younger brother was that he was beaten on his head and he doesn’t know anything else. That is the last word I heard before his arrest.
After my brother was detained he was beaten on the back, on the belly, on the neck and after two month my brother still could not move easily. When my brother was detained he was tortured along with sixty two other people from Con Dau very badly. They even beat pregnant woman and they have a very special tactic in torture. They hanged the woman up, they hanged the people who were beaten and push them into the wall, push them into the ground. Some people would not admit guilt and the police say they will beat until they admit they are guilty.
And after they admit they are guilty and they beat again so that they can go.
When my younger brother do not agree to sign they took my brother’s hand onto the table and this hit until he accept to sign.
There was a woman who was stripped naked and they used a shotgun to hit in her secret places. The men were hit in the hidden place by the shotgun.
When they are released, my brother and all the people were released they were to provide a written statement saying that they do not say anything about the torture, they are not allowed to say anything about what happened when detained. They are not allowed seek medical treatment for their injury. When they coming home they have to cooperate with government to accuse other people of Con Dau and have to show up every 24 hours.
My brother was hiding, running away and hiding at home and a few days later the police come home and they take him to the station. When the video clip of my brother was sent over to the media, the police want to know who videotaped him, who are the leaders .
My brother did not want to reveal anything.
So, they beat him up and then go home and do it again four times. After the fourth time he told his wife and friends that he cannot handle anymore and if it continue like that he would die.
The next night the police come to my brother’s house and my brother hear the dog bark and he’s scared and try to run away. One person in the neighborhood saw him and call the police. The police bring more people and come to arrest him and capture him.
They caught him in the next village. They beat him in his chest. Blood is coming out of his ear from his injury. Blood coming out from his nose. These police beat him so bad his wife kneel down and beg them to forgive him.
They say no, they say they are police from the government
They come and beat him again and after seeing him so bad, he couldn’t handle any more so they ask his wife to bring him home, wash him. My brother told his wife that he cannot handle anymore and his come to his mother – to my mother’s house and he die on her arm.
People are not allowed to come to pray for my brother after his death. They do not allow anybody to come to his house and to be around during the first 24 hours. The police ask to be given autopsy but my family not agree to that because they say that his body has been badly beaten so everybody see what happen so they don’t want to have autopsy for him. The police escort the funereal to the final destination so that – to make sure that he was buried there. [They say] my brother’s death was because he die because of heart attack.
Today I’m coming here asking for the U.S. government to intervene, to ask justice for my brother and only the U.S. government can help to bring justice to my brother’s death.
I ask the U.S. government to intervene to prevent the policies of Da Nang, to stop harassing my family, my people at Con Dau.
End Note: Currently eight villagers are imprisoned in Hoa Son prison, 30 km away from Con Dau. Their names are Mr. Nguyễn Hữu Liêm, Mr. Trần Thanh Việt, Mr. Lê Thanh Lâm, Mr. Đoàn Cảng, Mr. Nguyen Huu Minh, Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Thế, Mrs. Phan Thị Nhẫn, and Mrs. Nguyễn Thị Liễu. All eight detainees have been severely beaten and tortured. Please join us as we pressure the Vietnamese government to free these individuals by signing our petition online here.
Please know that while we cannot give specifics, ICC is currently assisting those most in need with this situation.