Vietnam: Repressive Crackdown Hits Christian Advocates

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Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 420 | Wed 14 Mar 2007

In 2004 the US State Department designated Vietnam a Country of
Particular Concern (CPC; deserving sanctions) due to its
systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.
In May 2005 the US made an agreement with Vietnam to remove it from
the CPC list if Vietnam made specified improvements in religious
liberty. The independent US Commission on International Religious
Freedom (USCIRF), which advises the State Department, urged that
Vietnam stay on the CPC list. Nevertheless the State Department
removed Vietnam in November 2006. At the same time Vietnam was
accepted into the World Trade Organisation and hosted the APEC
Summit in Hanoi.

While the US State Department was considering what to do with its
CPC list in the latter part of 2006, Vietnam was quietly repressing
a Christian lawyer named Nguyen Van Dai (38). Dai had been
representing Vietnam's persecuted Christians in court, documenting
Vietnam's religious liberty violations and promoting human rights
and democracy. He was detained for questioning in August and early
November and kept under house arrest during the APEC Summit. Once
November was over and the Vietnamese regime had what it wanted -
removal from the State Department's CPC list, accession into the
WTO, and a quiet APEC Summit - it re-clenched its fists.

In early February 2007 Nguyen Van Dai was awarded a Human Rights
Watch Hellman/Hammett grant recognising his courageous work for
human rights amidst persecution. Straight afterwards Dai and his
female associate Le thi Cong Nhan (27) were arrested at their law
office in Hanoi. They were detained for several days of questioning
while their homes and the law office were searched.

On 6 March Vietnamese police arrested lawyers Dai and Cong Nhan.
Along with Catholic priest Father Nguyen Van Ly, they have been
charged with violating Article 88 of the Criminal Code by
'propagandising against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam'. The
charges are very serious and allow four months' detention pending
investigation and then a sentence of 20 years. The Hanoi Bar
Association has disbarred Dai and Cong Nhan and closed their law
office. One accusation made is Dai conspired 'to consort with
certain extremist elements to gather what is called "evidence that
Vietnam suppresses religion" to distribute to enemy forces and to
reactionaries residing abroad'.

Several other rights advocates have been arrested in Vietnam over
recent weeks. Sources report the re-arrest of Mennonite Pastor
Nguyen Hong Quang (whom we prayed for when imprisoned in 2004-05)
may be imminent. Nguyen Van Dai's arrest shows again how much
Christians in repressive environments risk to be a voice for the
persecuted Church. According to sources, Dai and Cong Nhan have
started a hunger strike and Dai's wife, Vu Minh Khai, is under
constant police surveillance.


* those with power to influence policy and government and police
actions in Vietnam, that they will be convicted in their
conscience to do so.

* God to enable the Vietnamese to see, despite the propaganda, that
peaceful lawyers who defend the rights of peaceful people to
practise their faith are being persecuted by their government.

* God to so work in the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese that
they will reject injustice and seek truth and righteousness.

* Nguyen Van Dai and Vietnam's other courageous Christian advocates
paying a great price - their liberty - for their stand against
injustice and for religious liberty advocacy; may they and their
families be flooded with assurance of their sovereign God's love
(Romans 8:35-39) and presence (John 14:16), experiencing his
peace and growing in faith and grace.

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you
as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not
be afraid.' John 14:27 NIV

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The WEA Religious Liberty Commission sponsors this
RL Prayer List to help individuals and groups pray
specifically and regularly for religious liberty
issues, and in particular to uphold the Church
where it is suffering persecution.

RL Prayer is moderated by Ron Clough, a commissioner
of the WEA RLC and convenor of the Australian EA RLC.
Elizabeth Kendal researched and authored this message.