Vietnamese Authorities Invade Church Service

Monday, September 8, 2008

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM (ANS) -- Ten Vietnamese officers of the local police authority some of them in uniform, others in plain clothes and others in disguise, last Sunday, (August 31), rushed into the Church With A Mission house church interrupting the service and creating great anxiety among new converts.

"One of them chased after our guest preacher, Pastor Hieu, to as far as he went into the restroom of our house church and snatched his camera right from his hand in front of our very eyes," said Pastor Chinh Van Nguyen in an e-mail report of the incident sent to ANS.

"On seeing this, one of our members shouted at them, saying 'Give it back to him; otherwise we bring this to the public.' On hearing this, they threw the camera on the table and shouted back at us. The Pastor, because of this negative effect, has been sick since then. His medical record states that he has a noise-related health problem," said Nguyen, whose church is located in Xuan Thoi Thuong Village, Hoc Mon District, near Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Nguyen said the authorities made the situation worse when they interrogated and questioned the congregation as to who their leader was and "why we are doing this kind of silly thing?"

He continued: "We all replied in an accord: 'We are here only to worship and praise our God, Jesus Christ, as Christians, based on the teaching of the Jesus.'

"Disbelieving this, they ordered me to go to a nearby police station for further investigations and interrogations, but I refused to do so because it was on Sunday and they did not give me any order. Seeing that it was not easy as expected to deal with these Christians, they left in anger and with words of warning. Fifteen minutes later, two of the policemen in uniform from the village police station came and intimidated me into going to their station," Nguyen said.

"I had no choice than to go with them to the station where there were already around five of them sitting in chairs of interrogation, and two of them were from the Security Department of Hoc Mon District. They took turns interrogating me while one of them was taking minutes (of the meeting) stating we 'had broken the law of Social Security and Order by our allegedly congregating the people and our practicing religious activities and preaching the Good News Religion without any permission.'"

Nguyen said the minutes banned the church from meeting together in their unregistered house church again and if the authorities saw them re-gathering, they would do more harm.

"Having signed the minutes, I was released from the custody after 5 hours of being scrutinized following many words of warning and threat," Nguyen said.

Nguyen reported: "The following day (September 1), I was called in again as stated in the minutes. When I came in, I was kept waiting and then taken to a department of Fatherland Front where I met with a chairman. Needless to say, he reiterated my 'intentionally-wrong act' in assembling people and illegally preaching the Gospel without permission.

"I said in a reply I had not done anything other than to observe a religious service. I knew I had not registered for permission and that was why I came with the Request for Permission. He did not even look at it and pushed my hand away, saying 'we do not care about it.' One of the policemen also threatened me not to convene people again, otherwise they would do more harm to us and would put us to public judgment. Then they let me go home without showing what to do concerning the registration for permission," said Nguyen.

In his e-mail to ANS, Nguyen said that because of this event, and on behalf of his Church as an example of persecutions and of violations of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and on behalf of many other house churches in Vietnam, "We would like to beg for your consideration to report this (event) and do all you can in your power and impact to put pressure on the Vietnamese government so that they might loosen the Freedom of Religion and of Speech and urge the government to meet certain benchmarks consistent with international religious freedom standards."

He said this event is just one of hundreds of untold stories happening in Vietnam, especially among the Christian Churches of the ethnic minority people.