On 1 March, 24 Hmong Christians in Vietnam’s northwestern highlands were attacked in an attempt to make them renounce their faith.
At least four were hospitalized with injuries to their heads and arms.
The attack came after members of the ethnic group decided to follow Jesus Christ and local authorities warned that they would be expelled from the village if they did not recant.
A mob led by the village chief came for the Hmong Christians when they refused to capitulate.
The attack comes on the heels of the Law on Belief and Religion passed in 2016, which gives the government more powers to control religious practices in the country.
The law requires mandatory registration of religious groups and imposes tight controls on religious activities.
Those who do not submit to these demands risk harassment and persecution, as happened with the Hmong Christians.
President of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), Vo Van Ai, expressed particular concern about the “national security” provisions in the amended Penal Code which came into force in January 2018.
“The authorities are invoking the law to criminalise legitimate religious activities, creating a climate of impunity for a wide range of violations of freedom of religion or belief,” said Vo.
VCHR said in a statement, “These small Christian groups in the remote highland areas are being forced to join the larger, state-registered denominations. This is not only impractical — the churches are based in the large towns — but local Christians also object that state-registered churches have compromised on religious practices in order to obtain registration.”
According to VCHR, there are about 300,000 Christians among the one million Hmong in Vietnam.
Despite Vietnam’s political and economic opening-up in recent years, the communist government is still wary of people of faith.
Believers from ethnic minority groups face the greatest persecution. Seen as traitors to their culture and identity, they face harassment, violent attacks, and social exclusion.
Villagers collude with local authorities to beat believers, kick them out of their villages, and stone places of worship during gatherings. Non-Christian relatives cut family ties and deny inheritance.
Meanwhile Vietnam’s rights record, including on religious freedom, is under scrutiny at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s annual meeting in Geneva.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Ahmed Shaheed, said, “Vietnam is one of the top five countries that have received the highest number of communications on violations of religious freedom … The fact that Vietnam has attracted such a great deal of attention from mandate holders shows that there are serious concerns in the country,” he added.
He added, “Global studies have placed Vietnam among the ten states that have a very negative attitude to freedom of religion or belief in the public and private domain.”
HOME GROUP PRAYER
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night,” Psalm 1:1–2 ESV.
Heavenly Father, we give thanks for your laws for they are good.
We are sorry that the laws of humankind fall short.
We pray that you will lead us to good and righteous laws which will be enforced in a just way.
We think of how far we fall short and how much we have to go to achieve justice.
We pray for our Hmong brethren in Vietnam who are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.
We give thanks for their courage in being willing to abandon all to worship you.
We pray that their families and communities will not ostracise them and will see that the good work they do demonstrates their righteousness.
We pray for those who were beaten. We pray that they quickly recover from their injuries and suffer no more.
We pray that the national and local leaders of Vietnam will see that freedom of religion and belief is vital for the success of Vietnam and their local communities.
We pray that they will pass just laws and enforce such laws fairly. We pray that the people of Vietnam and elsewhere will have the vision of working together for peace and prosperity.
We are so thankful for our brethren who face persecution and pray for them and their families in this time of trial. Sustain them and fill them with your glory.
We pray that we will continue to remember them and keep them in our prayers.
Help us to find ways to support them and ease their suffering.
We ask it all in Jesus’ name.
Materials used by kind permission of the original author.