Published: 09:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 04 April 2012
Leader of unregistered house church in Vietnam jailed for eleven years
Country/Region: Vietnam, South and East Asia
The pastor of a house church in Vietnam has been jailed for eleven years for "disrupting national unity".
The 43-year-old church leader admitted to leading the unregistered church in the Central Highlands, where ethnic minority Christians face persecution and restrictions, during a one-day trial.
Christians face severe persecution in the Central Highlands
GFDL by DXLINH
He had been arrested in April and was also convicted of handing out anti-government leaflets and “enticing ethnic minorities to commit wrongdoing”.
The church leader, who is highly esteemed within the Christian community, was described as “a good man” by one believer.
All churches in Vietnam are supposed to register with the government and submit to its direction. Unregistered groups are particularly vulnerable to persecution, and any religious activity deemed to cause public disorder, harm national security or “sow divisions” is banned. Church buildings have been destroyed and Christians imprisoned on charges of violating national security.
Christians in some areas of the Central Highlands are among the worst affected.
In its latest annual report, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended that the Secretary of State designate Vietnam a “Country of Particular Concern” for “systematic and egregious limitations” of religious freedom. CPC designation is reserved for the world’s worst violators of religious freedom; others on the list this year included Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
The USCIRF’s report said:
The government of Vietnam continues to control all religious communities, restrict and penalize independent religious practice severely, and repress individuals and groups viewed as challenging its authority.
Individuals continue to be imprisoned or detained for reasons related to their religious activity or religious freedom advocacy; independent religious activity remains illegal; legal protections for government-approved religious organizations are both vague and subject to arbitrary or discriminatory interpretations based on political factors; and new converts to ethnic-minority Protestantism and members of one Buddhist community face discrimination, intimidation, and pressure to renounce their faith.