More than 60 religious leaders in prison camps

The religious leaders are in prison with sentences ranging from 5 to 18 years; they live in very difficult conditions, are subjected to forced labour for 14 hours a day and with limited medical help.

Vietnam
Oct 11 2013, 2:31 PM
More than 60 religious leaders in prison camps

International Christian Concern (ICC) based in Washington recently reported that there are 63 Christian Pastors and other religious leaders detained in deplorable conditions in four prison camps in Vietnam.

The religious leaders are in prison with sentences ranging from 5 to 18 years; they live in very difficult conditions, are subjected to forced labour for 14 hours a day and receive very limited medical care.

ICC is an organisation that monitors religious freedom and the plight of Christians in the world. "Almost all the prisoners are members of ethnic minorities in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Because of their faith, the Christians face a level of discrimination and oppression higher than most other Vietnamese," said the ICC report.

Father Ambrose Nguyen Van Si, Vietnamese theologian and Rector of the International College of St. Anthony in Rome, said that he believed that the figures and the contents of the ICC report are credible.

“This is the situation; there are still clear limitations and restrictions of freedom of expression and conscience. Those having opinions different from that of government’s are penalized or sometimes severely punished. This is unpleasant; especially because young people who defend human rights face arbitrary arrests. Members of ethnic minorities, collectively known as ‘Montagnards’ (mountain people) pay the consequences; they are still considered a threat to national stability. They are mainly Christians. I hope for more attention towards these brothers and sisters who suffer and pray," Father Van Si explained.

According to the ICC report, government surveillance on religious institutions in the highlands is very strict. Some of the 63 prisoners have probably been in jail since 2004, when the Vietnamese authorities launched a repression on those protesting against the illegal confiscation of land and religious oppression.

In Binh Phuoc province, local authorities are still insisting to dismantle 116 Christian chapels of the ethnic group ‘Stieng’, though these structures legally belong to the Evangelical Church of South Vietnam, officially registered in the country.

The Vietnamese authorities fear that a separatist and independence movement may develop among minorities.

In recent years, hundreds of people were reported and arrested for threats to national security or for illegal activities. Most are Protestant Christians, but there are also followers of a Catholic group called ‘Ha Mon’ that venerates the Virgin Mary, although not included among the local Catholic Church.

Source: Agenzia Fides