Hundreds of Hmong Christians are said to have been gunned down by security forces in Vietnam after the group had gathered near a mountain to await the rapture and return of Jesus Christ. The group of believers apparently learned of the rapture's timing from Family Radio broadcaster Harold Camping.
Pastors among the group were also beheaded, according to a report by the executive director of Moriel Ministries.
James Jacob Prasch, executive director of Moriel Ministries, regularly makes mission trips around the world. He said in a report that while visiting the Hmong Christian community, he learned of the persecution that occurred in late April and early May.
The group of about 7,000 believers was inspired after listening to shortwave broadcasts by Harold Camping to head to a mountain top to worship God and await Christ's return, according to Prasch.
Camping, a California-based preacher, has been insisting for years through his study of the Bible that he had discovered the date of the rapture of Christians and the return of Jesus Christ.
That date was supposed to have been May 21, 2011.
Camping, currently recovering from a stroke, later appended his questionable teachings when on May 22, he and those who took his Family Radio broadcasts to heart found themselves still here on Earth.
The fallout from Camping's much-criticized teachings among his American followers is now overshadowed by what has happened to these Hmong Christians in Vietnam - if Prasch's allegations prove to be true.
In his report sent to Moriel Ministries, Prasch writes:
“I am told by Hmong pastors that so many were shot dead that they were buried in mass graves bulldozed over in an episode that I read about in Britain but did not understand the magnitude of until I got here. I am now trying to clean up the mess at the request of local Hmong leaders.”
The report indicates that those who managed to escape being killed or imprisoned are possibly still in hiding in the jungle.
The Hmongs live in the mountainous and jungle regions of Vietnam. Hmong Christians are regularly persecuted by the Vietnamese government, and have been branded as a cult.
Vietnamese officials in the Dien Bien province accused “sabotage forces” of stoking secessionist demands, and denied reports of a massacre, according to BosNewsLife.
A spokeswoman from the Foreign Ministry also told the news agency that “extremists” had been detained and did not mention if anyone had been killed or injured.
A report published on May 27 on International Christian Concern's persecution website supports much of what Prasch reported learning from his visit with the Hmong Christian community.
An article from the Agence France-Presse published on May 29th reports that Hmong Christian groups had been camped out for a week in the mountains when they were confronted by security forces.
British-based religious freedom group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told the AFP that Camping's prophecy was key to the gathering's timing.
The AFP report doesn't make mention of any violence, but says that a truck “loaded with armed soldiers,” some hidden under tarpaulin, were in the vicinity of the gathering.
It is unclear how many may have died in this crackdown by security forces.