Vietnam: The ongoing persecution of Hre Christians
GeneralSeptember 19, 2005
This posting on the ongoing persecution of the Hre Christians in Vietnam comes from our Vietnam expert. This report exposes the strategy of the Communist Party of Vietnam to erect a wall around the nation – a wall made beautiful on the outside by a facade of propaganda and deceit. The hands of the Party and State stretch through the wall, extending open palmed to the world in search of materialistic wealth. Behind the wall, in the suffocating dampness and darkness of its long shadow, Christians continue to suffer systematic persecution. This report is one more attempt to expose and break through that wall.
----------------------------------------------------- THE ONGOING PERSECUTION OF HRE CHRISTIANS IN VIETNAM - by a Vietnam expert. ------------------------------------------------------
In late July 2005, authorities in Son Tinh District, Quang Ngai Province destroyed the homes of ten Christian Hre families because they would not give up their faith. On 21 August, authorities in Son Ha District incited the burning of the home of Evangelist Dinh Van Hoang, also because he would not sign a paper denying his Christian faith.
These very recent Vietnam government actions against Christians of the Hre minority in Quang Ngai Province, and their defence and cover-up by the State's propaganda organs, lead to the inevitable conclusion that the entire Vietnamese system, the Party and the State, still support the persecution of Christians. These events are particularly troublesome in light of Vietnam's recent promulgation of legislative measures supposed to support greater religious freedom, and specifically outlawing forced religious conversions and re-conversions.
HRE CHRISTIANS - and the persecution of evangelist Dinh Van Hoang
The number of Hre Christians increased from some 500 in 1991, to around 6,000 in 2005, chiefly in Quang Ngai Province. In recent years persecution has been intense, especially in Son Tinh, Son Ha, Minh Long and Ba To districts which have prided themselves on their revolutionary history.
The discrimination and persecution which is long-running and widespread was particularly focussed on a Hre Evangelist named Dinh Van Hoang (aka Dinh Minh Hoang). In 2003 he recorded what had happened to him and his family since 1999.
Because he was a Christian and a zealous Christian Evangelist, Dinh Van Hoang:
* had to do forced labour,
* was, on several occasions, humiliated in a public "peoples' trial" where he was mocked and beaten before fellow villagers,
* was imprisoned without trial,
* was, on several occassions, forced to abandon his home and move his family,
* was, along with his wife and children, beaten when his home was invaded,
* was, along with his wife, forced to participate in pagan practices,
* twice lost his home after officials ordered that it be burnt down.
Excerpts from his testimony read as follows:
"On Sept 11, 1999 the government officials of the district led us away. Mr. Tin, secretary of the district, ordered that a pig be confiscated from someone’s pen and forced us to worship spirits and drink the pig’s blood. My wife, Dinh Thi U became very ill and passed out (it appeared she had died) because of severe stomach pain. Then I, Dinh Van Hoang, prayed to God and he heard my prayer and immediately healed my wife. All the cadre were surprised by what they witnessed, but they did not believe."
"On Oct. 18, 2001 two soldiers of the Son Tay District unit, forcefully invaded my house at 6:00 p.m.. Two of my children were knocked unconscious, one left with an eye protruding. Then my wife, and our children and I prayed, and the wounds they had caused were healed."
"On May 16, 2002 we were again summoned. And all the villagers elders and war veterans were there. Before they began their interrogation, the officials drank until some were stone drunk. They asked my wife and me if we were ready yet to abandon our Christian beliefs. My wife, Dinh Thi U answered, 'No!' And I, Dinh Van Hoang answered, 'No' ! Then they beat me and my wife until there was blood flowing all over the place. In spite of this, my wife and I and our children faithfully believe in the Lord and we asked him to help us and heal our wounds."
"On July 6, 2002 the entire people's committees of two hamlets (came out), led by Dinh Van Viet, commune chairman . . . Then Mr. Cao Trong Tin, secretary of Son Tay District . . . ordered my house be burned. It was burned clean to the ground – not a thing left. While they burned our house they cheered, 'Burn the house! Burn the house! This is the Christian religion. . .'"
"After our house was burned there was nothing left – absolutely nothing. Then two officials, Dinh Van Cung and Dinh Van Vo, again asked my wife and me if we were now ready to abandon our faith. I, Dinh Van Hoang, answered, 'Absolutely not. I will not abandon my faith in God. . . I, my wife and children will accept death before we deny our Lord.' Then Dinh Van Vo, commune cadre and deputy commander of the local militia, incited young thugs to drive us away and to not let us live in Son Tinh Commune anymore. So we returned to a plot of land in Son Thuong Commune, my wife's native place."
"But the cadre of Son Thuong Commune also did want us to stay there and build a home. Until now (2003) we have no home and have not been granted legal residence anywhere."
Dinh Van Hoang did manage to build yet another home in Nuoc Nua Hamlet in Son Thuong Commune, Son Ha District, though he was never given official registration. He continued his Christian activity.
On the morning of Sunday, 21 August 2005, the commune public security police chief, Mr. Dinh Van Hoanh and his deputy Mr. Thai Mai Quan came to tell him that Christian believers were not accepted in this location and warned he would have to give up his religious faith or face the destruction of his home. Evangelist Hoang, as he had always done, said he could not give up his faith. According to Mr. Hoang's 23 August report, "Right after, a mob forced its way into my house destroying a wall. Once more they demanded that we give up Christianity. My wife and I answered that we would not given up the faith we had help for a long time. So they burned our house and all our property." The mob included war veterans, local defence forces, young people and even hamlet chief Mr. Dinh Van Xoa. This was the third time Hoang’s home had been burned!
This sad event came on the heels of another, in which, on 26 and 31 July 2005 in Suoi Hut Hamlet, Son Tinh Commune, Son Tay District of Quang Ngai Province, officials ordered the destruction of ten Christian Hre families because they would not give up their faith, according to hand-written reports from the affected families.
REPLACING FACT WITH FICTION
On 28 August 2005, Radio Free Asia (RFA) broadcast an interview with Hre Evangelist Dinh Tan Vinh. Evangelist Vinh told RFA the facts of the story recounted above. He is an evangelist of the legally recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South).
On 31 August, Vietnam News Service (Thong Tan Xa Viet Nam) countered with a posting which appeared in a Vietnamese language newspaper and in the English language Vietnam News on 5 September 2005.
Whereas once Vietnam would dismiss such charges as a "complete fabrication by forces hostile to Vietnam", the State propaganda organ quotes the charges in detail and then tries to refute them with a "complete fabrication" of its own.
The article says that Evangelist Vinh was "not a representative of the legally recognized General Confederation of the Vietnam Protestant Church (Southern Region)", usually called the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South). In fact, the President of the ECVN (S), the Rev. Thai Phuoc Truong, confirmed on 8 September that Evangelist Vinh was indeed an official worker of the church and had wide responsibilities for the Hre churches. The government, however, refuses to recognize the Hre congregations and workers which the legally-recognized ECVN (S) says belong to it. The Rev. Truong raised these issues with the Protestant section of the Bureau of Religious Affairs in Hanoi during the last week in August, without result.
The director of the indigenous Vietnam Good News Mission that has long supported the Hre Christian movement, also intervened on behalf of the persecuted Hre. On 29 July he appealed for help in the matter of the destruction of the homes of Hre Christians by petition to the central government's Inspection Bureau and the Policy Branch. He also copied the Party office and People's Committee of Quang Ngai Province. Investigators who were sent to see what had happened, warned perpetrating officials against such actions. But they were told that the action had been carried by order of the district's Party chief. The Party always trumps the government.
Vietnam News Service also falsely defamed Evangelist Hoang. The State article says, "Hoang was not a good citizen and was kicked out of the community several times." In fact he is a law-abiding citizen but his commitment to Christianity is unacceptable to the State so local officials have with impunity chased him from his home several times.
The State account says, "Hoang abused educational limitations of the local ethnic minority groups to preach illegally. He was advised several times not to lure people to blindly believe in nonsense and refuse to work". It says he "continued to incite people not to work". In fact, Evangelist Hoang effectively shared the orthodox Christian message that encourages diligent work and social obligations, not forbids it.
The State article accused Hoang of living "without official registration". In fact Hoang has many times applied for official registration but has always been refused because of his Christian belief and activities. The English article falsely accuses Hoang of destroying a traditional cemetery. The Vietnamese version in the same place says his fellow villagers considered him to be "a wild animal". "His behaviour," the English article states, "tested the patience of the community forcing them to burn his house."
The official explanation for the destruction of the ten Christian Hre homes in July is equally ingenious. It purports that new homes in a better location were being prepared for the families, but they would not move voluntarily. In fact there were no new homes prepared.
Another report from Son Thuong Commune by Dinh Van Giao and Dinh Van Tru dated 15 August 2005 describes strong pressure to abandon the Christian faith. When these men refused to write a statement denying their faith, the authorities wrote one instead and forced the men's hands to make their fingerprints on the document.
Long-lasting and widespread persecution of the Hre minority in Quang Ngai province continues until the present day. It is not happening, as some would like to believe, merely at the behest of local officials. Government investigators found it was ordered by district Party officials. The government has not denied the events but has fabricated alternative stories to explain them. The stories, complete fabrications and cover-ups, emanated from the propaganda branch of the State of Vietnam. They were published promptly on the worldwide net, and in Vietnamese and English language State newspapers.
This clear and recent example call into serious question Vietnam's stated intentions and ability to institute religious liberty reform.
Handwritten reports of Evangelist Dinh Van Hoang up to 23 August 2005.
Interview with the Rev. Thai Phuoc Truong, President of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (South) on 8 September 2005
Letter from the Quang Ngai Province Bureau of Religious Affairs to the Provincial committee of the ECVN (S) dated 9 November 2004.
Petition on behalf of persecuted Hre Christians to the central government Inspection and Policy Bureaus, by the Rev. Doan Trung Tin, director of Vietnam Good News Mission and dated 29 July 2005, and letter by same to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.
Radio Free Asia Vietnamese language broadcast scripts on the topic dated 25 August and 31 August 2005 (also quoting in full the Vietnam News Agency's counter report which includes the accurate report of Hre Evangelist Dinh Van Vinh).
Viet Nam News English language article on Page 5 of the 5 September 2005 edition, entitled "Radio report on the Protestant home burning a case of 'base slander'".
Photos of the house destroyed on 26 July and 31 July and burned house site of Evangelist Van Hoang on 21 August 2005.
Report from Dinh Van Giao and Dinh Van Tru of Son Thuong Commune dated 15 August 2005.
Interviews with others who know about the situation but wish not to be named.
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