Harassment Continues in Vietnam on Eve of Mennonite Trial

Friday, November 12, 2004

Church leaders ask authorities to “release Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang.”
Special to Compass Direct

HO CHI MINH CITY, November 12 (Compass) -- Authorities in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, came to the home of Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and ordered his wife to appear at a neighborhood “review” meeting at 7 p.m.

Sources in Vietnam say the purpose of the neighborhood review or “evaluation” meeting is for neighbors, prompted by police, to complain about church meetings that continue to take place at the Quang home and to accuse the Christians of disturbing the peace.

Mennonite Christians, appealing to Vietnam’s claim to allow religious freedom, have continued to hold worship services in the Quang home in spite of being told numerous times that such meetings are illegal.

Nguyen Hong Quang, imprisoned since June 8, is scheduled to be tried with five of his co-workers on November 12.

Reports have also filtered out of the country of police harassment of a dozen students who live at the Quang home and church. They were recently summoned to the district police headquarters and told they could not live there because their papers were not in order.
When they produced the papers in question and showed that the documents were in order, the police confiscated them. The loss of identity cards has greatly complicated the lives of these students.

Authorities have reportedly prevented the students from moving into a rented house nearby.

Last weekend in Sa Thay district of Gia Lai province, several Mennonite church leaders of the Jerai minority group were detained and beaten. Some succumbed to pressure to sign forms recanting their Christian faith. Several others were placed under house arrest for three months.

In Binh Phuoc province, Mennonite Christians of the Steing tribe report that earlier this week officials moved into the homes of some of their leaders, and wonder if the action has something to do with the November 12 trial of their fellow Mennonites.

In the meantime, leaders of the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship of House Churches, of which the imprisoned Mennonites are members, have sent a letter of request to eight high officials in Ho Chi Minh City and the capital of Hanoi.

The letter is addressed to the Prime Minister and Chief Justice of the People’s Supreme Court, among others, and signed by 22 leaders of Vietnam’s house churches, which are considered illegal.

The letter requests that authorities “dismiss the trial and release the Rev Nguyen Hong Quang and the other five Mennonite church workers who have been arrested and detained in connection with this case.”

The document also urges government officials to “immediately put a stop to slandering and smearing the good name and human dignity of Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang,” and “give a public explanation and a public apology for the misdeeds of the government branches and State media organizations concerned.”

A source in Vietnam said today that many Christians are fasting and praying concerning the trial. “Many Christians in Vietnam are watching the trial closely and see it as key indicator on whether Vietnam might change its repressive religion policy. Most are not very optimistic,” the source said.