By BosNewsLife News Center
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- Four Degar Montagnard Christians remained imprisoned in Vietnam's Central Highlands Tuesday, May 15, after they were arrested for collecting names for a statement which denies the growing house church movement of Degar Montagnards seeks independence from Vietnam, fellow believers told BosNewsLife.
"As we know, the four are still in prison," 10 days after they were arrested and allegedly tortured by local police, Scott Johnson, an advisor to the advocacy group Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), told BosNewsLife in a message.
Y-Kim Kbuor, 30, Y-Wan Nie, 35, Y-Bhuat Eban, 32, Y-Thil Eban, 29, all from villages in Dak Lak province, were "arrested and tortured" May 5, said MFI. "The security police imprisoned four of our Christian brothers at the prison in Cu Mgar district [of] Daklak province and severely tortured them," added MFI, which represents Degar Montagnard Christians in Vietnam.
Police allegedly "used martial arts on them after hanging them upside down and then beat them with their fists, kicked them with their feet and electric shocked them until they became unconscious," MFI explained. "The security police then pulled them down and poured water on them. When the victims awoke the police repeated the torture many times."
Police were allegedly angry that the four Christians began collecting names and signatures for a statement on behalf of pastors Christian laymen and village representatives of Vietnamâ€™s Central Highlands.
The statement, seen by BosNewsLife, says that while the Degar Montagnard House Church wants to "practice Christianity without government control or interference," its members "do not believe in separatism or want to overthrow the Vietnamese government."
Members however "believe they have the right to conduct Christian services, prayers and to sing hymns" in their own languages "and do not want to be forced to pray or sing or preach in the Vietnamese language."
The Degar Montagnard House Church members also "believe in one God and one Savior â€“ Jesus Christ - as described in the Holy Bible" the statement explains. It also urges authorities to realize they "believe in non-violence and that all citizens in Vietnam are equal in the eyes of the Lord," and asks the international community for support.
"For years the Communist authorities have been arresting and torturing Degar Montagnards for being house Church Christians while simultaneously accusing them of seeking independence and being separatists," the MFI told BosNewsLife.
Church observers claim that the tensions already began in 1975 when the North Vietnamese Communist regime took over the Central Highlands where Degar Montagnards supported American forces. "All of our leaders and people who had served with the US Army and South Vietnamese government were arrested. Many were executed and others sent to prison," MFI said.
In addition leaders as well as villagers, men, women and children were sent to 're-education camps' described as prison camps used for forced labor by the Communists to produce coffee, rubber plantations and other crops.
"The Communist regime has always hated the Degar Montagnard people because we are Christians and they have made ongoing accusations that Christians are agents of the CIA and worship America. The regime has claimed there is no such thing as God and have tried to control the population by making us worship the Communist party," Degar Montangard Christians said.
The Vietnamese government has denied human rights abuses and accused organizations such as MFI of propaganda. Hundreds of Degar Montagnard Christians are said to be imprisoned across Vietnam, and some of them have died while in detention, human rights groups say. (With BosNewsLife Research and reporting from Vietnam).
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