Vietnam’s dropped from ‘concern’ list, Christians still struggle

By November 15, 2006

Vietnam (MNN) — Vietnam is hailing the United States decision to remove it from their list of violators of religious freedom, saying it reflects warmer ties between the two former foes. However, many Christians are wondering about the move.

Voice of the Martyrs has been working with Christians in Vietnam for years. VOM’s Todd Nettleton believes this is a public relations ploy. “18 Vietnamese churches were granted registration, but instead of going to the pastors or the church leaders, the government simply faxed a list to the U-S Embassy as if to say, ‘Look, look, we have religious freedom now; we’ve registered all these churches.’ Some of the pastors were informed by our U-S Embassy there.”

While Nettleton says Vietnam appears to be proud of the church registration, “They don’t mention that there were actually 534 churches that applied for registration and only 25 were granted.”

The registration, Nettleton says, didn’t come without a price. “One of the things you have to do in order to apply for registration is you have to list all of the members of your church. At least some of those lists were used to target people for interrogation and persecution.”

Despite the problems in Vietnam, the churches are growing in Vietnam, says Nettleton, especially among the ethnic minority groups. He says not only is church registration an issue, but Bible translation. “It’s illegal in Vietnam to have something printed in those ethnic minority languages, and yet we see the church growing at an astounding rate.”

Vietnam has been successful in removing their name from the list. They’re also members of the World Trade Organization. Now, they want normalized trade status with the US. Nettleton says, “The interesting thing will be to see if all of these things are granted, what happens then. Does it return to business as usual in terms of persecuting Christians, or is it a time of opening up the borders and maybe having a little more religious freedom.”

As President Bush visits Vietnam, Nettleton is hoping religious freedom will be a part of his discussions.

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