Vietnam continues war on religion

By September 25, 2009

Vietnam (MNN) – The Vietnamese government is strengthening
its efforts to press minority ethnic Hmong Christians to renounce their

Some church leaders fear the United States' decision not to
put Vietnam back onto the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC)
regarding religious rights may have opened the door to more oppression. In fact, according to some news reports, it
appears trouble for Christians may have increased since Vietnam was taken off
the CPC list.

The Communist government views any organized religion as a
direct threat to national security and their authoritarian control of the
Vietnamese people. Their response can
take several forms under the guise of "national security," explaining why the
recent persecution spike has been hard to track.  

According to the Open Doors' World Watch List*,  it seemed that fewer believers were harassed
in Vietnam during the time the list was compiled for 2009. As a result Vietnam's persecution, ranking
fell to No. 23. Last year it was ranked No. 17, and in 2006 it was No. 8.  

Yet, Patrick Klein with Vision Beyond Borders says, "We met with about 28 pastors and
leaders. We asked them how many of them are harassed by the police. Every one
of them raised their hand. They're routinely harassed by the police, summoned
to the police station. Police come and question them, and try to intimidate
them and bully them. It's because of their faith in Jesus Christ." 

Harassment and 
persecution has been most intense for the ethnic minorities, especially
those from the hill country. Many of these people have attempted to flee to
neighbouring countries.

However, under an agreement with the Vietnamese government,
authorities have been returning the refugees to collect a bounty. Those who are
returned are imprisoned, tortured or killed. Despite the persecution, Christians now make up almost 10 percent of
the population.

There are some reports suggesting the government recently
changed tactics on their clampdown. They've gone more to plain clothes police
and hiring thugs to keep believers under control. Why? Klein
explains that "the tribal peoples, especially, are very, very open to the
Gospel. The church is growing very, very fast. So the government seems to be
threatened by them." 

Vision Beyond Borders works with an overwhelmed pastor in the region. He visited Christians in the North and in the
Highlands, where   "They're saying,
'Pastor, we need more Bibles. Can you get more Bibles?' " 

The pastor prayed for Bibles.  Klein says, "Then we showed up that night with 1000
more Bibles. He was so excited, that he said, 'Can you bring me 10,000
more Bibles immediately?'" 

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*(The World
Watch List
is compiled based on the results of a thorough
questionnaire consisting of 50 questions covering various aspects of religious
freedom. A point value is assigned depending on how each question is answered.
The total number of points per country determines its position on the World
Watch List of countries that are the worst persecutors of Christians.) 


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