Hope For Vietnam’s Protestant Churches

Mar 21, 2003 02:05 PM EST

HO CHI MINH CITY— Five leaders of Protestant house church organizations and missions gathered with Vietnamese government religion authorities for “informal talks” at Hanoi, March 5. Religious leaders hope the meeting may be a breakthrough for the Christian community in

The government’s Institute for the Study of Religion invited the delegates to participate in a seminar on Protestantism. The delegation also met with the special A38 unit of the Ministry of Public Security—the sector that deals with religious matters. The group attended the half-day seminar then proceeded to discussions with representatives of the state association responsible for mobilizing “mass organizations,” Fatherland Front; FF often carries out anti-Christian activity at the local level.

The Protestant leaders reported, "Frank and sincere discussions took place in an atmosphere of mutual respect.” They raised the sensitive issue of the intense persecution of minority Montagnard Protestant Christians in Vietnam's Central Highlands. They also called for a larger dialogue between Protestant leaders and the various government bodies that exercise jurisdiction over religious affairs.

The delegates to the seminar were Nguyen Duy Thang of the Church of God, Dinh Thien Tu and Huynh Huyen Vu of the Christian Inter-Fellowship Church, Duong Thanh Lam of the Vietnam Assemblies of God Church and Doan Trung Tin, leader of the Vietnam Good News Mission.

These groups represent more than 1,400 illegal house congregations and hundreds of evangelists in Vietnam.

The meeting came at a time of escalated violence and persecution against the Christian community in Vietnam. Since September 2002, authorities ordered the disbanding of more than 400 Ede Ede minority churches in Dak Lak province alone. Recent reports also detail the destruction by chainsaws of wood pole chapels of the Mnong minority in the same province. In another Central Highlands province, Gia Lai, only four of some 370 churches have been legally recognized.

The Montagnard and Hmong Christians in the northwest provinces are most often targeted.

By Pauline J.