By BosNewsLife Asia Service
HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife)– In a rare such case in Communist-run Vietnam, five ethnic minority Christian families from the country’s Central Highlands have been able to resettle with the help of Vietnamese authorities after they were forcibly evicted from their homes because of their faith in Christ, rights activists said Tuesday, July 2.
The families converted to Christianity in early 2012 but in January this year unknown assailants reportedly attacked the families’ property. Over the next three months, the attackers damaged buildings and farmland and destroyed crops and livestock, as well as beating several family members, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) which closely followed the case.
CSW cites sources close to the families as saying that the aim of these attacks was “to pressure the families to recant their faith.”
Eventually the families were reportedly forced to escape into the forests. “The Christians sent several petitions to the authorities during the period of the attacks but received no response. After they fled, their case was raised by local and national advocates, including a Protestant Christian leader who was granted meetings with various officials at the local and provincial level,” CSW said in a statement.
“The authorities felt that they could not guarantee the safety of the families if they returned to their own village, but found land for the families in a different village in the same district.”
Authorities also provided resettlement support, promised compensation, and allowed a Protestant Christian leader to visit them freely, accoding to CSW investigators.
“If this outcome sets a precedent, it could prevent violations against new converts, as would-be perpetrators get the message that freedom of religion or belief is a protected right in Vietnam,” added CSW in an assessment to BosNewsLife.
Earlier this month, CSW said it had received reports of two ethnic minority families in the north west who were summoned for interrogation by police three times since converting to Protestant Christianity in March 2013.
“On one occasion, a husband and wife were called in for interrogation together and were strongly pressured to leave their religion and recant. When they refused to do so, the police officers beat them,” CSW said.
The woman was allegedly beaten particularly severely. She reported being hit on the face and head more than ten times. Blows to her face drew blood, before police released her and sent her home.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas told BosNewsLife he hopes that “the Vietnamese authorities’ efforts to resettle Christian families and their concern for their safety and well-being” will help end other attacks against Christian minorities.
“We call on the government to take measures to prosecute state and non-state actors who are found to have violated the rights of religious minorities and discriminated against families and individuals on the basis of their religious beliefs,” he said.
“We sincerely hope that the authorities’ decision to listen to and work with the victims in this case will set a precedent for the treatment of victims of religious freedom violations.”
Vietnam has come under international pressure to improve the rights of Christians, including ethnic minorities such as Degar Montagnards, living in the Central Highlands.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is ‘Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals’ since 2004).
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