By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– Degar Montagnard Christians and other believers in several areas of Vietnam’s Central Highlands faced another day of persecution Friday, February 27, after at least one Christian peasant was hacked to death by security forces and an angry mob, missionary workers and a key official told BosNewsLife.
The U.S.-based Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI), which has close ties with Christians in the area, told BosNewsLife it has just learned that Siu Krot, 65, was killed outside his farm, after refusing to sell his land.
Local authorities have often pressured indigenous Christians to sell their lands below market value, or nationalized them, according to MFI and other advocacy groups. “The Vietnam law is craftily designed to kill the indigenous Degar [Montagnard] people but protect ethnic Vietnamese as you can see with our Christian brother Siu Krot,” MFI President Kok Ksor told BosNewsLife.
In Krot’s case, a group of Vietnamese police and around 10 Vietnamese civilians reportedly awaited him at his hut and demanded he would sell his farmland to them.
When Krot refused they abducted the Christian for about three kilometers before killing him by “whacking him with their machetes on the back of his head, on his forehead, on his nose, both sides of his cheek…until he died,” MFI said in a statement.
“Then they tied a big rock to his corpse and sunk him to the bottom of the river.” His body was apparently discovered the next day by a doctor who “took all of his intestines, heart, and liver from his body before throwing them back inside and telling his family” including Krot’s son, “to take the corpse home and burry it,” MFI claimed.
Vietnamese officials had no comment. MFI said authorities have also confiscated money sent to Christians from the United States, including from an old sick mother.
MFI explained that it has learned that last year Y-Pliu Nie, who is now living in Greensboro, North Carolina as a refugee, sent $350.00 to his sick mother, H’Krek Nie, who is living in Daklak province.
His mother wanted to use the money to buy medicine and rise, but local police took the
$350.00 and forced her to give finger prints, before releasing her, MFI added.
Missionaries suggested the incidents are part of a wider campaign targeting believers in especially rural areas of the Communist-run Asian nation. Christian Aid Mission (CAM), which represents native missionaries in the area, said in some provinces, “believers are still being persecuted not only by the government, but also by Buddhists.”
Communist officials have denied persecution is taking place, calling the reports Western propaganda. However CAM quoted local Christians, including a pastor, as saying that homes have been destroyed and burned and that believers have been detained and tortured.
“Just a few years ago, more than 300 tribal pastors were put in prison – or simply vanished. No one has ever heard from them since,” CAM added. MFI said hundreds of Christian Degar Montagnards are detained in several prisons, mainly because of activities related to their Christian faith or attempts to escape the country.
The missionaries were apparently able to make contact with 87 families where husbands received sentences ranging from 3 to 11 years for “preaching the Gospel,” CAM said. “We learned that many of these men were seriously ill. Several died in prison and others were sent home to die.”
Ministry workers said they were able to help a dozen of impoverished pastors’ wives to visit their husbands for the first time.
It remains difficult for tribal churches to operate, CAM suggested. To become “legal” they have to register themselves register with the government and receive official permission for Christian activities, CAM said. “This allows the government to closely monitor the churches.”
Yet despite the setbacks, CAM stressed that some missionaries have noted a “sudden change” in attitudes of authorities towards Christians in some areas of the country, where so far tribal house churches were banned.
“The ministry used this time of “freedom” for traveling into remote areas. One of my most gratifying experiences was the ability to speak in areas previously prohibited from worshiping God at all,” a missionary said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
While Vietnam as undergone reforms, advocacy groups suggest that Communist authorities
remain weary of allowing the unlimited spread of Christianity.