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(BosNewsLife) – Risking long prison sentences, Vietnamese house church leaders have given written testimony to the International Relations Committee of the US House of Representatives in Washington , D.C. about what they say is widespread persecution of Christians in the Communist nation, BosNewsLife monitored Wednesday, June 22. The testimony came as Vietnam ‘s Prime Minister Phan Van Khai began a historic visit to the United States Monday, June 20, which is aimed at boosting relations with Washington , 30 years after the Vietnam war ended. Church leaders Rev. Tran Mai, general director of the Inter-Evangelistic Movement of Vietnam, Evangelist Truong Tri Hien of the Vietnam Mennonite Church , and the Rev. Pham Dinh Nhan of the United Gospel Outreach church were reportedly among several religious leaders detailing attacks against Christians. The last Vietnamese religious leader who submitted written testimony to a US government agency, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, was Father Nguyen Van Ly, noted Christian news agency Compass Direct. After his written testimony was read into the Commission record on February 13, 2001, Vietnamese officials sentenced him to 15 years in prison “for slandering Vietnam .”

Rev. Mai submitted his testimony directly from Vietnam . He gave current stories of religious persecution from Hai Phong harbor to the Mekong Delta. He quoted Hmong, Kor and Hre ethic minority leaders recounting incidents of beatings, pepper spray, forced labor, confiscation of property — including land and houses — and imprisonment, all of which have occurred since the “liberalization” of laws and regulations on religion, Compass Direct reported. He also named victims and perpetrators. Mai reportedly concluded that “the Ordinance on Religion and the Instructions signed by the Prime Minister [is] ‘old wine in new skins.’ The new legislation still retains the essence of oppressing religion. The government has officially announced that ‘The government will only recognize a few religious denominations. So what does this mean for those who will not be recognized?”, he reportedly wondered.