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Vietnam Christians Urge US Intervention After Beheading

By BosNewsLife News Center

10/7/06 Vietnam (BosNewsLife) Viet Si, the spokesperson of the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam , told BosNewsLife that his group has urged US Ambassador In-Charge of International Religious Freedom, John Hansford to help provide “humanitarian protection” for believers.

“We plea for humanitarian protection for our Mennonite [Christians] and Buddhist Hoa Hoa Church leaders and their faithful followers in Vietnam,” said a letter to Hansford at the US State Department obtained by BosNewsLife, sent shortly after the recently reported beheading of at least one pastor.

The International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam , made up of people in and outsight Vietnam , said “Vietnamese authorities have recently hired street gangsters to disrobe, physically injure and kill our religious leaders and their followers.”

“PEACEFUL VOICES”

In the letter to Hansford the group also claimed that the latest developments were part of “attempts to shut down” what it called “peaceful voices” for “constitutional rights of freedom of religious worship in our Beloved Motherland Vietnam .”

In one of the latest incidents Friday, October 6, Vietnamese security forces allegedly forced entry into Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh’s residence in Gia Lai province. They undressed him “in front of dozen of other police to interrogate him” apparently to search “for a recording device,” the group said, adding that the church leader was almost tortured “to death.”

However, “Pastor Nguyen wore no recording machine and has never violated any laws,” added the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam .

Before the October 6 incident, news emerged that on August 16 police has “conspired with gangsters to behead Mennonite Evangelist Ashua in Dakto province” because he refused to halt his worship services to thousands of his followers in Dakto province.

POLICE INVOLVEMENT

“In recent months, police cooperated with gangsters have searched, disrobed, detained and tortured dozens of leaders and followers of Buddhist Hoa Hao Church in number of provinces in Southwest of Vietnam,” added the International Movement. “Obviously, they have attempted to wipe out outspoken leaders and followers of this Church.”

Earlier this year, on May 23 police stormed Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang residence.

The residence was completely destroyed as it was “used as a small and modest Mennonite Church in the Second district in Saigon,” explained the group, using the previous name of what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City. “He was fatally beaten and suffered serious injuries while being detained and interrogated for days at a local police station.”

On May 13 armed forces, police and local militants reportedly launched what Vietnamese activists described as “brutal massive attacks to suppress innocent and unarmed Vietnamese people” at Phuoc Long district in Binh Phuoc Province to confiscate their land.

ETHNIC CITIZENS

Police reportedly also prohibit these ethnic citizens to worship or to participate in any religious activities at local Christian Churches , specifically the Mennonite Church .

Vietnamese police have “beaten these worshippers while they were taking baths in their own homes. They have disrobed them or torn off their clothes in public. There have been many other physical attacks, which have been coordinated with gangsters, aiming at our innocent and unarmed worshippers systematically at the nationwide level,” claimed the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam .

It condemned what it called “the Communist Party of Vietnam ’s horrified and barbaric campaigns to strip off our citizens’ constitutional rights of freedom of religion.” In the letter to Hansford, the group urged the US to look into the alleged crackdown “before the world leaders come to Vietnam to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference (APEC)” in November.

“We strongly request your immediate humanitarian protection for our unarmed and defenceless Church Leaders and their religious faithful followers. The intervention and powerful help is highly appreciated by all of us, the 84 million Vietnamese inside and outside Vietnam ,” said the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam .

The Vietnamese authorities have denied human rights abuses in the Communist-run nation