RLPB 417. Vietnam: High Cost of Defending Religious Freedom
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 417 | Wed 02 Aug 2017
VIETNAM: HIGH COST OF DEFENDING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
plus update on Iranian prisoner Amin Afshar-Naderi
by Elizabeth Kendal
CFF Director of Advocacy
Arrested in April 2011, Lutheran pastor, evangelist and religious liberty advocate Nguyen Cong Chinh was sentenced in June 2012 to 11 years in prison for ‘undermining national unity’. In prison he has been subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, torture and other cruel mistreatment and abuse. Meanwhile, his wife Tran Thi Hong, another courageous religious liberty advocate, has been routinely beaten and harassed. Both have paid a high price for their public defence of religious liberty [RLPB 359 (1 June 2016)]. A little over a month ago, urgent prayer was requested for Pastor Chinh, for not only had his health deteriorated, but he was being punished for telling a delegation from the US Consulate about the torture, beatings, cruelty and harassment he has suffered in prison [RLPB 412 (28 June)].
On 28 July Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, his wife Tran Thi Hong and their five children arrived in Los Angeles, USA, having accepted a deal from the Communist government of Vietnam that saw Chinh released from prison on the condition that he leave the country. While we rejoice that Pastor Chinh and his family are now free and safe, we are saddened that this freedom had to come at the high cost of exile.
Internationally acclaimed Protestant human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate Nguyen Van Dai has already spent four years in prison (2008-2011), followed by four years of house arrest (to March 2015) for the crime of ‘spreading propaganda against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam’. He was re-arrested on 16 December 2015 as he attempted to meet with European Union representatives [RLPB 354 (27 April 2016)]. Detained without charge, the authorities have extended Dai’s detention three times [RLPB 391 (25 Jan 2017)]. Denied contact with her husband, Dai’s wife Vu Minh Khanh, another courageous religious liberty advocate, travelled to raise awareness of his plight [RLPB 359 (1 June 2016)].
On 30 July authorities charged Nguyen Van Dai (48), his legal associate Le Thu Ha (35) and four other human rights advocates, including Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (45), with ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s administration’ under Article 79 of the Penal Code. Communist Party mouthpiece, Viet Nam News, reports that the Investigation Security Agency under the Ministry of Public Security has commenced legal proceedings. This is an extremely serious charge. If found guilty, Nguyen Van Dai — whom Viet Nam News labelled ‘the alleged instigator’– could face 12 to 20 years of imprisonment, a life sentence or even capital punishment, while his ‘accomplices’ could face sentences of 5 to 15 years.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY FOR GOD TO
* bless, comfort, encourage and bring healing to Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, his wife Tran Thi Hong and their five children, as they settle into life in the USA; may the Lord provide their every need and continue to use them in his service and for his glory. May the Lord send out more workers into the ‘fields’ (Luke 10:2) of the Central Highlands of Vietnam.
* intervene on behalf of Nguyen Van Dai and his co-accused, that justice and reason prevail; may the charge be exposed as ridiculous, malicious and vindictive; may the accused, along with their families, friends and churches, cling to the Lord and remain firm in faith; may God redeem all suffering to bring good from this evil.
‘I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (Matthew 16:18b ESV)
UPDATE on Iranian prisoner Amin Afshar-Naderi
RLPB 414 (12 June) called for prayer for believers imprisoned for their faith and witness in Iran, in particular for the nine Iranian men — pastors and evangelists — who had recently received extremely harsh sentences. Of these, particular concern was raised over the well-being of Amin Afshar-Naderi. Sentenced to 15 years, Amin wrote a deeply moving letter to the authorities and commenced a hunger strike. After 19 days without food, he had lost some 10kg and his health was failing. On Tuesday 25 July, Amin was temporarily released from prison, pending his appeal, after signing over property deeds worth $US 80,000 to secure his bail.
* Thank-you Lord, that Amin has been able to secure temporary release on bail. Please, Lord, heal and strengthen Amin as he awaits his appeal hearing.
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
HIGH COST OF DEFENDING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY IN VIETNAM
Arrested in April 2011, Lutheran Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh has suffered heavily for his public defence of religious liberty, as has his wife, Tran Thi Hong. On 28 July Pastor Chinh, his wife and their five children arrived in Los Angeles, USA, having accepted a deal from Vietnam’s Communist regime that saw Chinh freed on the condition that he leave the country. On 30 July authorities charged Protestant human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate, Nguyen Van Dai, and five associates with ‘carrying out activities aimed at overthrowing the People’s administration’. As the ‘alleged instigator’, Dai could face from 12 to 20 years in prison, a life sentence or a death sentence. As his ‘accomplices’, his co-accused could face 5 to 15 year terms. Please pray for Vietnam and its Christians.
Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and, After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).