Though much-publicized government steps towards religious freedom have been taken recently, including allowing some churches to construct buildings and releasing certain “prisoners of conscience,” reports from Christian Aid’s contacts in Vietnam indicate persecution continues.One native mission leader told Christian Aid that he believes recent government actions are calculated to appease international watchdogs while simultaneously increasing control of churches. He says that in “allowing” Christians to meet together in church buildings, authorities are not allowing them to gather anywhere else. Those caught meeting in one of the country’s over 1000 house churches can be arrested. The buildings in which Christians can officially meet are few and far between, making it easier for government officials to supervise all church activities. Also, according to one of Christian Aid’s contacts, the location of churches was deliberately planned to decrease attendance. “If 11 churches are in a district,” he says of a typical scenario, “they leave one open in a remote area, close the rest of the churches and tell everyone they must go to the open one. Then they say that they have an open church.”
In addition, instances of persecution by authorities in certain districts do not seem to be lessening. A few weeks ago, says a native ministry leader, two young women were beaten by police trying to force them to give up their faith. They refused and fled. An indigenous ministry is caring for them since family members are afraid to take them in for fear of being arrested. Also recently, a house belonging to a Christian family of six was burned down by local police when the family refused to deny Christ. They too are in hiding under care of native missionaries.