VIETNAM – Over 100 pastors imprisoned for preaching the Gospel
In what appears to be an attempt to control the growth of Christianity in the region, government authorities in the Central Highlands of Vietnam have arrested another 66 pastors for preaching the gospel and for refusing to consolidate their churches into a much smaller congregation. These newly arrested pastors join more than 40 pastors who are already in jail; some of them have been imprisoned since 2001.
This unjust imprisonment of Church leaders without a trial is even more concerning due to the horrific and life-threatening prison conditions in Vietnam. Local sources even allege that prisoners who do not follow strict protocol have been poisoned.
Christians account for only about 10% of Vietnam’s population but they are viewed with suspicion by the authorities. Vietnamese Christians are being unjustly restricted and their Church leaders are being inhumanly imprisoned. Although they have have long faced an uphill battle in terms of religious freedom, problems for Christians escalated over the last few weeks as the authorities arrested dozens of pastors and imprisoned them.
Vietnam’s Constitution and legal code claim to protect religious freedom, but the situation is very different in practice. True freedom of religion allows for the growth of religious minorities, but there are many restrictions on the expansion of Christianity. Churches are forced to register to hold meetings but there are unjust impediments to registration in many regions. Religious groups that are seen as a threat to the communist government are often shut down.
A ministry leader in Vietnam, whose name cannot be disclosed for security reasons, said “The government wants to combine [churches] to limit their growth and have more control.” He added, “If the pastors refused to sign a paper saying they would combine and that their gatherings would not go over 500 people, they would be beaten or thrown into prison.”