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Vietnam’s new religion law is expected to have a ‘chilling effect’ on evangelistic work.

By November 16, 2004

Vietnam (MNN)–Starting yesterday, a new law is in effect that aims at close state management of religious activity in Vietnam.

Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, says the Vietnamese Evangelical Fellowship is alarmed at what it means for believers, the church and the future of the evangelistic movement. “This law, potentially has the impact of restricting amazing amounts of activity that are going on in the Vietnamese church right now. God’s been doing wonderful things there, but this law presents itself as a great threat to the growth of the church there.”

The VEF says it is likely to permanently outlaw house church organizations, none of which have been recognized since 1975. Many articles in this ordinance will also provide a legal basis for local authorities to hinder and persecute the church.

Concerned at the ‘chilling effect’ the law is expected to have on evangelistic work, Moeller thinks harassment may become outright persecution. “If, in fact, this law does prove to be as restrictive as many of the believers in Vietnam fear, it may create a new wave of arrests, imprisonments, and we’ve already seen that begin to happen with the arrest of several Mennonite pastors for simply doing ministry in an unregistered church.”

He says in addition to the call for prayer, pastors and leaders from the house churches and indigenous mission organizations signed a petition delivered in Hanoi in late September.

It appealed to Vietnam’s Communist Party leadership to allow greater religious freedom in Vietnam and re-think the new religious law. However, Moeller says little news has come out of the country regarding the outcome of this and other petitions.

Moeller said Vietnam already has a bad track record when it comes to persecution, ranking fourth on its world watch list.

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