Two Vietnamese pastors were abducted and beaten with a metal bar by masked men believed to be working for a local police force amid increasing persecution in the country.
According to Asia News, while on their way to Ba Đồn in late February, Rev Nguyễn Trung Tôn, a Protestant clergyman, and his colleague, Rev Nguyễn Việt Tú, were attacked by a group of thugs who forced them into a van. The two men were taken to a remote forest area on Hương Khê mountain, where they were stripped of their clothing. Then, the masked assailants robbed the two clergymen and beat them with a metal bar.
Eventually, the two men managed to return home with the help of residents who found them wounded and disoriented.
Asia News notes that Nguyễn Trung Tôn is a pro-democracy activist, and a defender of religious freedom who was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to two years for "activities undermining the State" and "propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam" .
After his release, he was subjected to repeated harassment and intimidation by Security Police, including death threats against him and his family.
While Vietnam claims to protect religious freedom, it often imprisons and suppresses religious activity, notes persecution watchdog International Christian Concern. It said that in the last year, Catholic and Protestant groups and even members of unrecognized forms of Buddhism were barred from attending services, and government agents brutally attacked Christians and removed the crosses from their churches.
"The instances of religious persecution got increasingly worse," Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh, head of the Vietnam-based Association to Protect Freedom of Religion, told UCA News, noting that authorities coerced religious leaders into giving up church property, and prevented Christians from attending services.
In February, students gathering for a Bible class in Hanoi were detained by security forces, while the teacher, a missionary, was expelled.
"Last week we were arrested by Hanoi security during our Bible class," said one pastor. "All students had to stay in the police station and were divided one-by-one to write about what we were doing. The foreign missionary leading our class was charged 1,000 USD and expelled from the country."
Vietnam is ranked 17th on Open Door USA's World Watch List of 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution, up three spots from last year. Christians make up just 9.5% of the country's population of 92.7 million.
According to Open Doors, "Christians in Vietnam have been experiencing an increase in persecution" since Vietnam's Communist government adopted the new 'Law on Belief and Religion' on November 18, "which further limits freedom of religion considerably".