By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– An unregistered house church in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi faced uncertainty over where to worship Sunday, November 20, after armed men reportedly broke up their meeting, seriously injuring a dozen Christians, including women and children.
The gang also threatened to kill the pastor if he continues to organize church meetings, said the denomination’s top leader Nguyen Cong Thanh after meeting the injured Christians.
“All they could do was weep, and I also could not prevent my tears from flowing,” he stressed in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife. “Why do they gratuitously beat servants of the Lord like this – what crime have they committed, what enemies have they made?”
The November 13 confrontation in the house of Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau began when a group of men stormed the meeting at 9:30 am local time, Christians said.
‘CHILDREN AMONG INJURED’
Five men, four women and three teenage children were injured, while Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau lay unconscious “for several hours,” and later treated with severe chest, stomach and head pain, according to witnesses.
A woman, Nguyen Thi Lan, was unable to walk after receiving blows to the stomach and groin, Christians said.
The gang reportedly smashed property belonging to the church members including chairs, a pulpit and a cross, as well as stealing parts from motorbikes and destroying Pastor Danh Chau’s family fruit trees and kitchen garden. In the middle of the attack, members of the gang ran outside and were heard shouting “The Christian pastors are savagely beating people up!” in an alleged attempt to defame members of the church.
The attacked Agape Baptist Church in the Bot Xuyen village of Hanoi’s My Duc district is part of a larger unregistered house church denomination that was founded in 2007. It has around 2,200 members, who meet in over 35 congregations in and around Hanoi, according to estimates by Christian rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
“CSW condemns the attack on Agape Baptist Church, whose peaceful meeting is protected by Vietnamese legislation,” CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston told BosNewsLife in a statement.
He said his group has urged “the Vietnamese government to investigate fully the events of the attack on the church, to allow access to appropriate medical care for the victims, and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
There have been several gang attacks in Vietnam, in some cases supported by local police and security officials, CSW added.
In September a house church in Quang Nam province of a recognized denomination, the Vietnam Baptist Church, was reportedly attacked by 20 attackers who threatened to destroy the church and kill all its members. Calls made to police during the violence were not responded to, according to rights investigators. Those responsible for these attacks are rarely detained, Christians complained.
Vietnam’s claimed “commitment to religious freedom must be matched with concrete protection for those whose religious freedom is violated,” Johnston said.
Vietnamese officials have repeatedly denied involvement in wrongdoing and point out that they have extended opportunities for Christians to worship within state-approved churches.
The latest reported incident came after a recent report by the U.S. State Department accusing the Communist- run Asian country of failing to tolerate religious freedom.
In an annual report on religious freedom around the world, the State Department said while Vietnam’s constitution protects religious freedom, the government regulates and, in some cases, restricts religious practice. It added that at least “some unregistered and even registered religious groups” are abused.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi dismissed the contents of the report, saying it was a “biased assessment” based on insufficient information. (With reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).