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08/05/2021 Vietnam (International Christian Concern) – International human rights activists and government officials in the U.S. have condemned a coordinated raid conducted by Vietnamese officials on two Vietnamese churches in the Dal Lak Province of Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Nearly two dozen ethnic minority Christians were detained in the raids, most or all belonging to the persecuted Montagnard ethnic group.

The Montagnards are indigenous groups native to a mountainous region near the border with Cambodia. About seventy percent of Montagnards are Christian, ten times the national average. The government treats them badly, often repressing their ability to practice their religion freely as in this case.

At least one woman fell ill after being held at a police station and cannot work. At least three members of her family were detained at the same time. Vietnamese police and prison authorities have long been accused of brutal violence towards detainees, including torture.

Human rights groups were swift to condemn the attack, which US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Chairwoman Nadine Maenza called an “egregious abuse.” Fellow USCIRF commissioner James Carr also weighed in, calling on the central government and local authorities to cease their abuse of Montagnard Christians.

Ned Price, spokesman for U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also condemned the raid “Very troubling that Vietnamese authorities…conducted coordinated raids on house churches,” he said. “We urge Vietnam to cease this harassment and intimidation and allow everyone to practice their faith.”

USCIRF and the Department of State called attention to the persecution of Montagnard Christians in separate reports earlier this year with USCIRF recommending that State designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for egregious abuses of human rights and religious freedom. State highlighted significant religious freedom issues in Vietnam as well in a May report.

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