Dak Lak authorities intensify repression against Vietnam’s Church of Christ

Followers have been threatened with prison or fines if they continue to meet.
By RFA Vietnamese
2023.11.22
Dak Lak authorities intensify repression against Vietnam’s Church of Christ Members of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ gather for Christmas 2022.
Pastor Aga

Authorities in Vietnam’s Dak Lak province are increasingly persecuting members of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, forcing them to abandon prayer meetings or even leave the group, according to one of its founders.

Pastor Aga told Radio Free Asia on Monday that harassment of church followers became more intense after the People's Committee headquarters of two communes in the province were attacked by armed gangs in June, leaving nine people dead.

The Evangelical Church is not recognized by the Vietnamese government and Pastor Aga lives in the United States. He told RFA that on Nov. 15, police and officials tried to break up and record what they called “illegal religious activities” when dozens of believers gathered at a house in Buon Don district.

Two days later, Buon Don district police summoned many people who attended the gathering to interrogate them, and tried to force them to sign a commitment not to meet again. However, the people refused to sign. 

The police also warned event host H Ik Kbuôr about allowing church members to gather at her house to pray, threatening her with a fine or imprisonment if she continued to use her private house as a gathering place for religious activities. 

Pastor Aga said the police and local officials arrived again on Nov. 19 when everyone was praying together.

“On Sunday morning, they came and disturbed them and did not allow followers to gather together,” he said.

“They forced them to abandon the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ. They even threatened that if they continued, they would be fined or imprisoned like Y Kreč Byă and Nay Y Blang.”

Y Kreč Byă was arrested by the Dak Lak provincial government in early April on charges of "undermining the national unity policy" according to Article 116 of the Criminal Code. Nay Y Blang was arrested by the Phu Yen provincial police in mid-May on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms," under Article 331. Neither has been allowed to see their families or lawyers.

Both men are missionaries of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ and are accused of having made contact with Pastor Aga to oppose the Vietnamese government.

Pastor Aga said the Church now has 20 groups meeting in the Central and Central Highlands regions.

He said that in areas with many meeting places and believers, the authorities harassed them, while in those with few followers, local authorities ignored them.

According to a report by Montagnards for Justice on Nov. 19, police and local officials also went to the Church's meeting places in Kdun village, Buon Ma Thuot city and Kŏ Dung B village trying to force believers to disperse and threatening to punish them if they continued to gather "illegally."

RFA called the leaders of the Religious Affairs Committee of the Department of Home Affairs of Dak Lak province and the Buon Don district police to verify the report but no one answered the phone.

According to the Human Rights Report in Vietnam 2022-2023, published by the Vietnam Human Rights Network on Nov. 18, the Vietnamese government has systematically oppressed indigenous ethnic people in the Central Highlands since 1975.

In addition to taking land from ethnic minorities for state-owned companies, the government does not allow them to freely practice religion, the report said, because authorities believe that following unrecognized religious groups causes social unrest.

Translated by RFA Vietnamese. Edited by Mike Firn and Elaine Chan.

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