The Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which represents Degar Montagnard Christians, told BosNewsLife it learned that on August 19 Vietnamese security forces "summoned" two "of our Christian brothers", identified only as Ri, 20 and Wo, 24 from the village of Ploi Todrah in Gialai province to a nearby police station.
"When our brothers arrived at the police station, the security police arrested, handcuffed and sent them to the prison facility in the district of Cu Se. The police tried to force them to sign an agreement paper to stop worshiping God in their home," MFI said.
They were told that "if they want to worship God they must follow Siu Kim," a Degar Montagnard working for Vietnam's Communist government. He has helped to set up churches "worshipping" late Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, MFI and local Christians said.
The two detained Christians apparently refused to comply, saying the Bible gives them "courage" and taught them that it is more important to be "in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ" than following the demands of the world. "These two Degar House Church Christians remain in prison and their families gravely fear for their wellbeing," MFI said.
Vietnamese security police allegedly also arrested another key House Church Christian woman in the area, identified as Puih H’Bat because she had "a few of her friends in her village" in her house "for Bible readings and prayer," MFI said. "She was taken to the prison at Ia Grai district in the province of Gialai," but was released two days later.
The woman, whose husband lives in North Carolina, USA, was forced to watch a video of Siu Kim preaching in his church, but refused to follow him, despite police pressure, MFI said. "We thank God that this time the Vietnamese police did not torture her like they did to so many others,"during her detention.
The latest reported crackdown on Christians came as Catholic villagers began revealing details of a May incident when security forces dispersed 1,000 believers carrying a statue of Mary in the village of Kon Hdrom. "While villagers were placing flowers around the statue of Mary, 27 Vietnamese security police armed with weapons and electric batons barged inside the church to violently disperse worshippers, shouting and beating" them, MFI added.
All but six worshippers ran away. They were released after two days after paying a fine of 500,000 Vietnam Dong ($31), a major amount in this impoverished region, MFI said.
However Christian villagers face other pressures as well, including a lack of drinking water missionaries said. "In many villages, Christians are denied access to local wells. Many are in desperate need of clean drinking water. One local government has promised access to clean water to any Christians who deny Christ," said US-based Christian Aid Mission, which seeks to provide these believers with their own well.
Other pressure allegedly includes expulsion from schools, Christian news agency Compass News Direct reported. It said it had obtained a letter from an elementary school in central Vietnam which denied entry to a fifth-grade boy because he is Christian. Tran Van Ha, principal of Ka Dang Public Elementary School in Quang Nam province, wrote to Phong Hong Phong’s parents on July 2 that the child could not take an entrance exam because the school district had announced a new rule barring “students who follow a religion," the news agency claimed.
Other parents reportedly received similar letters. Vietnamese authorities have denied human rights abuses. "The Vietnamese Government always respects and protects human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of religion and beliefs," said the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry recently.
However MFI and other human rights have suggested that while allowing more economic reforms, Vietnam's Communist government has been reluctant to allow more religious freedom, for fear it could undermine its powerbase anchored in an atheistic ideology.
In a document, leaked by MFI, the Central Bureau of Religious Affairs in Hanoi allegedly writes: "Those who are hostile and extremely resistant treat them severely and publicly denounce them to the citizens explaining their activities of destroying the country, dividing the ethnic groups, and their other illegal actions." (With BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife Research and reporting from Vietnam).