More violence against believers despite government's claim about religious freedom
Wife of a jailed Mennonite clergyman is harassed and threatened. Vietnam's Foreign Ministry attacks Pope for his criticism of religious persecution in Asia claiming that in Vietnam religious freedom is guaranteed under the law.
Hanoi (AsiaNews) Violence against believers continue despite the government's claim that freedom of worship is protected.
The latest episode in a recent wave of religious persecution involves Le Thi Phu Dung, wife of Rev Nguyen Hong Quang, leader of Vietnam's Mennonite Church and human rights activist who was recently sentenced to three years in prison. This comes just a few days after the authorities prevented members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam from visiting their ailing leader, 87-year-old Thich Huyen Quang, in hospital.
On Sunday, 40 police officers raided Ms Dung's home in suburban Ho Chi Minh City where they disrupted a religious service under way. Those present were cited for participating in an "illegal meeting" and for using "a residence for religious purposes".
Ms Dung, who replaced her husband as Mennonite leader in June, was charged under the 1999 Decree on Religion Nº 26 (art. 7, 19) which restricts religious activities to locations and leaders approved and authorised by the authorities, this despite the fact that the government has failed to authorise the construction of churches or other places of worship. Given the circumstances, many Christians are forced to hold religious services at home in so-called house churches.
Sunday's police raid is but the latest in a series of acts of intimidation and harassment against Ms Dung for allegedly "disturbing the public order". On November 13 she and her children were threatened with eviction if she did not stop her religious activities. During her husband's trial she was also harassed and threatened.
Sources close to Freedom House said that the government prosecutor prevented Rev Nguyen Hong Quang from calling witnesses in his defence. He was eventually sentenced for "inciting people to resist law officers on duty". The verdict refers to a March 2 incident in which Rev Quang and others protested against the incarceration of four Mennonite ministers. Western journalists were barred from his trial.
Recently, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Le Dung, stated that "in Vietnam freedom of religion is guaranteed under the law and is respected in practice". However, a new Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions adopted by the Vietnamese government has come into effect which many local religious leaders consider an impediment to religious freedom.