Vietnam Detains Christian Montagnards Following Massive Prayer Vigil

Monday, July 10, 2006

By BosNewsLife News Center

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- Vietnamese police have detained several Montagnard Degar Christians for attending a massive prayer vigil where believers prayed for the government and for an end of religious persecution, representatives said Monday, July 10.

The arrests took place after about 2,200 Montagnard Degar Christians attended the June 28 prayer vigil in Buon Tara Puor village in Daklak province, said US-based Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which has close contacts with the Christians in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

They came "to pray that God will soften the hearts of the Vietnamese government to stop persecuting the Degar people, MFI told BosNewsLife.

"Initially, 285 Degar students from all four provinces of [Vietnam's] Central Highlands came to the prayer vigil and many Christians from around the area joined them until over 2,200 people arrived," the group added.


"Vietnamese police came to the prayer vigil and started collecting names of the Degar Christians who attended. After the prayer vigil the Degar Christians returned to their villages [but] a few days later the Vietnamese police started making arrests," MFI claimed.

Among those arrested are female students H’Dion Buonya and H’Phiang Nie, both 21, who were detained July 2 while riding a bus back to their school in Ho Chi Minh City, MFI said.

"When they got to bridge number 14, Vietnamese police stopped the bus and arrested them, and took the two girls to the prison in Buonmathuot city."


Both Montagnard Degar students are originally from Buon Tara Puor village where the prayer rally took place, MFI said. Police reportedly also detained H'Dion's father when he and other parents asked the local Hoa Dong commune police why their children were arrested, The father, identified as 56-year old Y-Krai Nie was sent to the regional Krong Pac prison facility, MFI said.

Vietnamese authorities have denied wrongdoing and call reports of persecution "Western propaganda." In July 2006, the US State Department continued to maintain Vietnam on its “watch list” of countries that it claims are among the worst violators of religious freedom. To date over 350 Degar prisoners remain in Vietnamese prisons for charges related to spreading Christianity or for fleeing to Cambodia, human rights watchers say.

Rights groups have linked the reported persecution to claims made by Vietnamese authorities that Degar Montagnards are following a "Western religion" and supported US forces during the Vietnam War. Of the roughly 1-million Degar Montagnard people, close to half are Protestant, while around 200,000 are Catholic, according to estimates. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Vietnam).

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