By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– Christians in Vietnam anticipated more raids on house churches Saturday, August 8, after a police crackdown on several congregations in recent weeks.
Voice Of the Martyrs Canada (VOMC), a group representing reportedly persecuted Christians, said it had urged supporters to pray that “Christians in Vietnam will remain true to Christ in the midst of pressure and oppression.”
“Pray that those who oppose Christians in Vietnam will turn to faith in Jesus and become demonstrations of God’s love and mercy to others,” VOMC said in an e-mail to supporters following reports that four police officers and two government officials raided a house church in Tran Phu Commune in Hanoi, July 26.
Security forces claimed it was illegal to worship and teach religion, Christians said. The believers who had previously attempted to register their church, reportedly refused to sign a document admitting they were meeting illegally. In a reaction, a police officer told them, “If I find you meeting here next Sunday, I will kill you all like I’d kill a dog!”, reported Compass Direct News, a Christian news agency.
There was no immediate confirmation of Vietnamese authorities, however the government has in the past played down reports of religious rights violations.
GOOD NEWS CHURCH
Soon after the Hanoi incident, Pastor Mai Hong Sanh of the Vietnam Good News Mission Church in the town of Ea Hleo in Dak Lak Province was reportedly sentenced on July 31 to three months of “local re-education” for expanding his house and giving religious training without permission, church sources said.
Pastor Mai was not permitted to defend himself in court and authorities arranged for people to testify against him who were allegedly members of another church, according to Compass Direct News.
In addition, some 5 police officers wielding batons and electric prods barged into a house church on August 2 in Xuan Thoi Thuong Commune in Ho Chi Minh City and demanded the Christians leave immediately, Christians said.
The leader of the house church, Nguyen Van Chinh, had apparently previously attempted to register the church but was told that he must permanently cease their meetings.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES RELUCTANT
Christian observers have linked the apparent increased harassment of congregations to the reluctance of local authorities to register house churches.
Pastor Dang Thi Dinh and the national leader of the Ecclesia Revival denomination, Pastor Vo Xuan Loan, have appealed to local authorities register a Hanoi church according to the Prime Minister’s 2005 Special Directive Concerning Protestants.
A commune head angrily proclaimed, “There are absolutely no Christians in this commune!” and then shooed them away, church leaders reported.
Vietnam’s Communist government allows state-backed churches, but officials have expressed concerns over the growing house church movement, which includes many evangelical Christians.