Officials Seek Reprisal Against Believers for Unrest in Central Highlands
Special to Compass Direct
HO CHI MINH CITY, April 16 (Compass) -- Evangelical Christians blamed for the unrest in Vietnam's Central Highlands in early February have been abducted, tortured and prevented from worshipping together by security police, according to reports from the region.
The latest pressure on ethnic minority Christians in Vietnam stems from accusations by government officials that Christians are associated with the Dega separatist movement based in Dac Lac and Gia Lai provinces. Recent violent protests over land and religious rights issues in the Central Highlands have put the government on edge and prompted provincial officials to seek reprisal for the disturbances.
"We will severely punish Christian believers in the three provinces of the Western Highlands, so that they will not be able to raise their head," said Mr. Y. Luyen on February 8 to a group of local citizens from Cu Eber Commune in the Cu Jut district of Dac Lac province. Luyen, the Communist Party secretary of Dac Lac province, had invited those who were not Christians to meet at the peoples' committee office in the commune.
The next day, police began to carry out his threat.
Christians in Buon Ea Mhdar in the Buon Don district reported that security police had prevented them from gathering. Similar reports came from believers in Krong Pac, Ea H'leo and Ea Sup districts.
Pastors and evangelists throughout Dac Lac province indicated that they were not able to function at all. Even weddings and baptisms had to be cancelled. Churches were effectively cut off from their leadership.
Other credible reports gave specific examples of pressure on Christians in Dac Lac province during the February unrest. On February 3, Mr. Ama Ger, a resident of the Cu Bur Commune in the Cu Jut district, was abducted at night by security police and badly beaten. He was taken to a hospital, but his family has been refused permission to visit him. Reports that he has died have not been confirmed.
Mr. Ama Sinh of Buon Bon Commune in Buon Don district was abducted and tortured by security police, even though he had not participated in the demonstrations. Three others in the same commune were also tortured.
Many people of Buon Ea Sup, Buon Cuor Knia and Ea H'leo district reportedly fled to the forest. Some have been captured and have disappeared. When others from these areas go to the market to buy food, they are followed by government agents, who swear at them, mock them and make their life extremely difficult, reported sources closely connected with the minority churches.
In Gia Lai province, authorities tore down a Protestant church on March 10 in their continuing efforts to clamp down on ethnic unrest, the Associated Press reported on March 28.
In recent years, thousands of minority peoples have become Christians, particularly among the Mnong, Ede, Jarai, and Bahnar peoples who live in the regions where the demonstrations took place. One group, the Ede, have seen the number of Protestants grow from 15,000 in 1975 to more than 150,000 today.
Several hundred churches of the minority peoples were confiscated or destroyed immediately following the communist takeover in 1975. Yet the number of tribal minority Christians continues to grow dramatically, even according to government figures. Denied church buildings in most places, many hundreds of minority Christian congregations are forced to worship in circumstances considered "illegal" by the government.
Copyright © 2001 Compass Direct News Service. Used with permission.