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12/02/2020 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – Vietnam’s largest evangelical church group has called off its congress to elect candidates for the next term of its clergy council, after the Vietnamese government denied its permission to hold its scheduled bi-annual Clergy Assembly.

According to UCA News, on Nov. 25, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam’s southern branch (ECVN(S)) announced that it could not organize the 10th Congress of the Clergy Council, which was scheduled for Dec. 1-3 at the Biblical and Theological Institute in Ho Chi Minh City.

On the same day, the Bureau of Religious Affairs released a statement confirming its decision and urging the ECVN(S) to observe the government’s Law on Belief and Religion in order to hold the assembly, which requires religious organizations to send lists of candidates for the clergy council and their résumés for government approval in advance of the meeting.

The leaders of ECVN(S) said the church could not go against its good disciplines and rules that have existed over the past century. The church obeys its constitution that allows “the church to elect officials for the council before presenting the list of them to the government.”

The government’s requirement is seen as a vetting process to filter out candidates who are not supportive of the communist government.

Given the systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom, last year USCIRF again finds that Vietnam merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has recommended every year since 2002.

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