By ICC Correspondent for Vietnam
International Christian Concern
On September 2, 1945,Vietnam declared its independence and, in a speech, Ho Chi Minh invoked the United States Declaration of Independence and the French Revolution's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Tragically, 69 years later, the Vietnamese government is still trying to crush the rights, especially the religious rights, of its minority tribes, including Hmong, Montagnards, and Khmer Krom.
The Christian-majority Hmong tribes are suffering under extreme persecution at the moment. The Hmong tribe helped the U.S. fight the Communists during the Vietnam War and were considered traitors. They are being pushed further and further into the mountainous areas of the central highlands, facing poverty, unemployment, contaminated water, malaria, lack of medical facilities and lack of education. "The government is deliberately keeping them poor, uneducated and away from any contact with the West," a local contact in Vietnam told ICC during an interview. "The soil is rocky, infertile and barren, so eking out even subsistence living is very difficult."
Tourists or foreigners are forbidden to mix with people from villages by the Vietnamese government. "The Vietnamese government's approach to religion is 'deceitful.' On one hand, they allow state-sanctioned churches in cities to grow," Dr. Thang D. Nguyen, the President of the Boat People SOS, explained. "On the other, they clamp down independent underground churches of minorities." The Vietnamese government appoints the 'pastors' of state-sanctioned churches with government officials and is able to show the outside world that there is a growing number of Christian churches in Vietnam, in order to placate international pressure. However, the "real Christian churches" are seriously oppressed.
Moreover, the past year has seen religious persecution growing in Vietnam's minority tribes. ICC obtained a list of 50 imprisoned pastors in Vietnam, and their family members, all of whom are living in poor conditions. Many pastors have reported experiences of being imprisoned and tortured and some vanished without a trace. "A year ago, I was able to meet Hmong pastors in a populous area, but not this year," a local contact told ICC. "They were too scared to travel or draw attention to themselves. They told us stories of being followed, searched and beaten."
Despite the persecution, the Hmong churches are growing quickly and an ICC reporter met with some pastors with churches of 300 people. "Those churches want to grow and need Bibles," said ICC's local contact, "People there are so poor that they also need the basic necessities of life- clean water, sanitation, and food on the table."
ICC's Regional Manager for Southeast Asia, Sooyoung Kim, said, "The Vietnamese government fails to respect its citizens' religious beliefs. The government intimidates, harasses,arrests, beats, and even kills people from religious minorities, leaving them in a desperate situation. ICC calls on the Vietnamese government to stop hiding its brutal tactics toward Hmong, Montagnards, and Khmer Krom people from the international community. We urge the government to take measures to guarantee that its citizens' rights to religious freedom are upheld among religious minorities."
For interviews, contact Sooyoung Kim, Regional Manager for Southeast Asia:
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