HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– Christians of house churches and other non-recognized groups prepared Friday, December 24, for a tense Christmas, after security forces halted Christmas celebrations and detained believers in several areas of Vietnam, Vietnamese Christians and rights investigators said.
(ADDS REPORTS OF VIOLENCE IN CENTRAL HIGHLANDS )
By BosNewsLife Asia Service
In one of the latest known incidents, hundreds of Christians arriving for a planned Christmas event at the National Convention Center in the Tu Kiem district of the capital Hanoi were awaited by police, according to witnesses. They reportedly found doors of the building locked and police on scene who tried to send them away Sunday, December 19.
Instead, some of the Christians began to sing and pray in the square in front of the center, Vietnamese Christians said. Police allegedly struck some believers with their fists and nightsticks. At least six people — including Reverend Nguyen Huu Bao, the event’s scheduled speaker — were arrested, said Voice Of the Martyrs (VOM), a well-informed rights group. “At last report, the six individuals were still detained.”
Similar incidents reportedly occurred on December 19 in Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Quang Nam provinces, and in the city of Danang in central Vietnam. Officials allegedly injured believers and, in some cases, also confiscated or destroyed property belonging o believers, Christians added.
News of the tensions came just days after a prominent Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang was beaten and his home and Bible school demolished by authorities in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 2, on December 13, said VOM Australia, citing local sources.
Police “beat Pastor Quang with batons so badly that he eventually lost consciousness. He was held in an undisclosed location and released later that day.” Pastor Quang, a human rights lawyer and chair of the Legal Committee of the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship, has reportedly been imprisoned several times in recent years.
Vietnamese authorities have denied they crackdown on Christmas events, but say Christians have to worship within recognized churches. The state-run Voice of Vietnam (VOV) network said Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem on December 23 visited “Christian dignitaries” at the Hanoi Archbishop’s Office and the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) on the occasion of this year’s Christmas.
VOV, monitored by BosNewsLife, also said “Many western families have chosen Vietnam to celebrate a memorable Christmas.”
Vietnam, it said, “has become an attractive destination for foreign tourists not only because of its beautiful scenery, rich culture and people’s hospitality, but also the peace and harmony between different religions.”
Many of Vietnam’s Christians refuse as they view the denominations as being led by the Communist Party and its atheistic philosophy.
News of the latest crackdown followed reports of violence against Montagnard-Degar Christians in the country’s Central Highlands where at least 22 people were wounded and one man, aged 50, was left crippled when police attacked an open air congregation, rights activists said.
The group of around 100 Christians had gathered in prayer November 11 in the village of Ploi Kret Krot, Gia Lai province when poolice officers ordered the group to disperse, according to advocacy group Barnabas Fund. When they replied they were not committing any crime, the police allegedly attacked the group, beating men, women and children with sticks and electric batons.
Some of the group reportedly fled into the nearby forest and were still in hiding weeks later. Police reportedly patrol the village, forcing residents to remain indoors. Vietnamese authorities have in the past denied reports of a crackdown on Montagnard-Degar Christians in the region.