Vietnam Christian Dissident Released; Evangelist Palau On “Historic” Visit
ICC Note: Vietnam, the “next” China in both persecution and economic growth, releases a Christian lawyer
By BosNewsLife Asia Service
3/31/10 Vietnam (BosNewsLife)– A Vietnamese Christian lawyer and dissident has pledged to continue her fight for more democracy in the Comnunist-run Asian nation, after leaving prison where she spent three years for challenging the authorities and advocating a multi-party government, BosNewsLife learned Tuesday, March 30,
Thirty-year-old Le Thi Cong Nhan, a Protestant, told reporters her experience had strengthened her faith in the democracy struggle.
Cong Nhan, was released March 6 from Prison Number 5 in northern Thanh Hoa province where she had been serving time for “propagandizing to destroy the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.: However she still has to serve three years of house arrest in the capital Hanoi.
Yet, when a group of Catholics unexpectedly visited her with flowers to celebrate International Women’s Day, the attorney told them she still “trusts in God” as her “father, teacher and friend”, Christians with close knowledge about the meeting said.
She reportedly said that the Lord had supported her in “overcoming challenges and difficulties” during her three years in prison. Cong Nhan went on hunger strike twice when prison authorities too away her Bible, Christians said.
A fellow lawyer who was convicted along with Nhan, Nguyen Van Dai, was sentenced to five years in prison. His sentence was reduced by one year, but observers said his release from prison is not expected for another year.
Cong Nhan’s release came just days before American evangelist Luis Palau came to Vietnam for what local pastors reportedly described as a “historic and unprecedented” visit and “evidence of significant changes that are taking place in Vietnam on many fronts.”
Palau was in Vietnam March 11-17, leading an American delegation that held meetings in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam authorities, American diplomats, “and pastors representing every denomination,” his organization said.
At a two-day conference organized by Vietnamese pastors addresses including those of Palau, Intel company executive Rick Coulson, San Diego pastor Mike MacIntosh, and investment banker and former Secretary of the Navy John Dalton, the Luis Palau Association said.
Palau reportedly encouraged the pastors “to bless and pray for their city”, Hanoi, “and to pray for, serve and honor the authorities.”
He spoke to 500 Vietnamese pastors and hundreds more by live Internet feed, organizers said.
It came at a time when church leaders have expressed hope that liberalization in the economy will also lead to more religious and political freedom inVietnam.
Yet despite the developments, observers point out that 16 dissidents are known to have been jailed since last October, including another lawyer, Le Cong Dinh, and a young French-trained Internet blogger, Nguyen Tien Trung.
Also, several church leaders as well as hundreds of predominantly Christian Degar Montagnards remain detained across the country, rights groups say.