Ethnic Montagnard Christians complain of fresh persecution

Police disrupt gatherings by Evangelical Christians. For Pastor Aga, more threats and repression are coming. In addition to taking land away from ethnic minorities for state-owned companies, the government believes that following unrecognised religious groups causes social unrest.

Milan (AsiaNews/Agencies) – In Đắk Lắk, a province in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, the local Evangelical Church of Christ has complained of increasingly harsh persecution by the authorities. The Church is strong among local ethnic Montagnards but is not officially recognised by the Vietnamese government.

Pastor Aga, who lives in exile in the United States, told Radio Free Asia that hostility grew after the headquarters of the People's Committee in two municipalities in the province were attacked by armed gangs in June, causing nine deaths.

On 15 November, police and officials tried to disrupt and record what they called "illegal religious activities" at a house in the Buon Don district where dozens of worshippers were gathered.

Two days later, the police summoned for questioning many of the people who had attended the meeting and tried to force them to sign a pledge not to meet again. However, people refused to sign.

Last Sunday, agents showed up again during the Sunday celebration. “They forced them to abandon the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ,” Pastor Aga said. “They even threatened that if they continued, they would be fined or imprisoned like Y Kreč Byă and Nay Y Blang.”

The latter are community members who were arrested last spring on charges of "undermining the national unity policy" and "abusing democratic freedoms".

According to a report by Montagnards for Justice, police and local officials last Sunday went to the meeting places of these Christian communities in the village of Kdun, the town of Buon Ma Thuot, and the village of Kŏ Dung B, trying to force the faithful to disperse and threatening to punish them if they continued to gather "illegally".

According to the Vietnam Human Rights Report 2022-2023, published by the Vietnamese Human Rights Network, in addition to taking land from ethnic minorities for state-owned companies, the government does not allow these groups to practise their faith freely, based on the belief that following unrecognised religions causes social unrest.