Three Vietnamese house church leaders submitted on June 20th, the first day of Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's historic visit to the United States, written testimonies to the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. describing the arrest of numerous house church leaders and the treatment they've received in prison.
The church leaders are Rev. Tran Mai, general director of the Inter-Evangelistic Movement of Vietnam, evangelist Truong Tri Hien of Vietnam Mennonite Church, and Rev. Pham Dinh Nhan of the United Gospel Outreach Church. Nhan and Mai serve as chairman and vice-chairman of the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship and are top leaders of their respective church organizations. Hien is a close protege of Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang who was arrested on June 2004 after publicly criticizing Vietnam’s government for detaining four Mennonite church workers. Currently he is awaiting asylum in the United States.
Congressman Chris Smith, who led the committee hearings, read the names of those who witnessed during the committee hearings and also several religious leaders in Vietnam who have submitted testimony.
Hien, through a comprehensive 14-page report, described the raid of the Mennonite headquarters in Ho Chi Minh City from Jun 2004 to May 2005. The report includes the details of the arrest of Rev. Quang and five other workers.
In his report, Hien requests that the two Vietnam Mennonite Church leaders, Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and Evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach, whom remain in prison to be immediately released. He also appealed for the two to be treated according to the new legislation passed on religion and to be able to register their activities. Both requests were unanswered by the prime minister.
Helen Ngo of the Vietnam Committee for Religious Freedom read a section in Nhan's report during the hearings on the affects of oppressions on his family.
From Vietnam, Mai sent his report on the current persecutions from Hai Phong harbor to Mekong Delta. The testimony recounts confiscation of properties, beatings, forced labor, and imprisonment which occurred after the "liberization" of laws and regulations on religion.
On the issue, Mai commented, "The Ordinance on Religion and the Instructions signed by the Prime Minister [is] ‘old wine in new skins.’ The new legislation still retains the essence of oppressing religion. The government has officially announced that 'The government will only recognize a few religious denominations.' So what does this mean for those who will not be recognized? It means plainly that these organizations will be outside the law."