By BosNewsLife News Center
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- An influential Vietnamese evangelical pastor and evangelist has been beheaded after he refused to halt his massive church services, his friends said Saturday, September 30.
In a letter to the US Ambassador to Vietnam, Michael W. Marine and obtained by BosNewsLife, fellow Christians said they are "extremely outraged," to report â€œan absolutely barbaric murder of Mennonite Evangelist Ashua in Dakto province, Vietnam on August 16â€ this year.
"Evangelist Ashua was cruelly beheaded by street gangsters after he had been ignoring the prohibition of the Vietnamese authorities to continue offering his religious services to thousands of his parishioners in Dakto province," wrote the International Movement for Democracy and Human Rights in Vietnam, a group comprised of Vietnamese activists in and outside the Communist-run nation.
"This atrocious murder to Evangelist Ashua, a well-respected Mennonite Church leader, was a tragic incident among thousands of recent governmental escalation of religious persecution against our Christian Ministers and their followers in recent years," the authors added.
"Last month, [Pastor] Nguyen Cong Chinh had been interrogated and beaten almost to death and serious injuries were inflicted on his body.â€ In the letter the group â€œstrongly demand [an] extensive investigation in this brutal murder to bring the responsible mastermind people and the killers to justice."
They also urged "humanitarian protection for our desperate and helpless religious leadersâ€ including well-known church leaders Nguyen Cong Chinh and Nguyen Hong Quang, and their followers, who the group claimed â€œhave been under permanent brutal religious persecution."
There was no immediate reaction from US or Vietnamese officials. News of the latest reported case of persecution comes shortly before President George W. Bush is due to visit the region.
The Vietnamese government recently announced it would grant amnesty to hundreds of prisoners, including many dissidents and Christians, although doubts remain whether all of them will be released, BosNewsLife established. (With BosNewsLife research and reports from Vietnam).
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