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Vietnam Montagnard Christians "Tortured" For Refusing To Worship Communist Leader

Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Tag Cloud

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

HANOI, VIETNAM (BosNewsLife) -- Several indigenous Degar Montagnard Christians in Vietnam's Central Highlands recovered from their injuries Sunday, May 28, after they were detained and tortured by Vietnamese security forces for refusing to abandon their Christian faith and follow the 'official' Communist-backed church, their friends said.

Since May 16 police took at least three Christian Degar Montagnards from Bon Djrong village in Vietnam's Gialai Province to what a 'communal committee office' to explain why they refuse to worship in what is known as 'Siu Kim's Church', said the advocacy group Montagnard Foundation Incorporated (MFI).

Siu Kim, a Montagnard working for the government, dedicated the church in February and invited 10,000 Montagnard Christians in the area to participate in the ceremony.

But many believers, including apparently those arrested this month, refused to participate as the church worships Siu Kim and Ho Chi Minh, the late Communist leader, MFI said. Instead of a picture of Jesus or a cross, only Ho Chi Minh's picture can be seen in the church, local Christians explained.

WORSHIPPING CHRIST

The three detained men, identified as Kpa Yim, 29, Siu Long, 33, and Rahlan Thung, 64, reportedly told police they "do not want to follow Siu Kim or his church" as they do not worship Siu Kim or his congregation.

"We worship only God and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," the said, according to a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.

"The police then made them stand against the wall holding out their arms horizontally. Then the police started beating, kicking [and] punching them until they fell unconscious," MFI said.

The torture allegedly continued for about two hours "and all three of our Christian brothers had blood coming from their mouth, nose and ears," added MFI, which has close contacts with the Christians.

"SEVERE TORTURE"

"Police then let them go, but the brothers are suffering injuries from the severe torture," the group claimed. The reported incident came on the heels of violence against Rmah Pla, a 39-year old Degar Montagnard Christian, in the village of Plei Sur in the Cu Se District region of Gialai Province, MFI claimed.

He was reportedly taken to the police station in Cu Se District apparently for his faith "and tortured severely by beatings" when he arrived at the local prison.

Details of his current situation were not immediately available, MFI added.

Just three days earlier, four police officers arrested two other Degar Montagnard Christians in Gialai Province's Cu Se District, who were identified as Ku, 33, a Bible reader from the village of Plei Thong and Bin, 32, a hymn teacher from the same village, investigators said.

"SPREADING GOSPEL"

Police accused these Degar Christians of being "trouble makers spreading Gospel to other people in this area that made them not to follow the official church, MFI said, citing local sources.

The Degar Christians denied the charges. “It is not true. How could we get out of our village while your police forces have surrounded our village and blocked all of roads and trails around our village and besides you have arrested, tortured and imprisoned some of our people who had tried to visit their relatives in other villages,?" the said, according to a statement.

Vietnamese police reacted by "torturing them by kicking and stomping on them with their military boots, beating them with batons, punching them on their stomach and sides until they were unconscious," MFI said.

"The police continuously tortured them from 6 pm until 11 pm and finally released them on March 15, 2006 threatening them more will follow if they don’t’ follow the church of Siu Kim and Siu Pek. They now suffer injuries without proper receiving medical treatment," the group added.

GOVERNMENT DENIAL

The Vietnamese government has denied claims of human rights abuses made by MFI and other secular organizations such as Amnesty International.

"The Vietnamese Government always respects and protects human rights including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of press and freedom of religion and beliefs," said the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry in recent statements.

MFI said it has urged the international community and embassies in Vietnam to pressure authorities to stop "religious persecution" to prevent "an escalation of violence in the region and that Vietnam ceases such persecution before Vietnam be granted entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO)."

It also demands that Degar Montagnard prisoners "are fully accounted for and released from Vietnamese Prisons before Vietnam be granted entry into the WTO," as well as a "permanent presence of human rights monitors" in the Central Highlands, and the prosecution "of police officers who tortured the Degar Christians."

MANY PROTESTANTS

Of the roughly 1-million Degar Montagnard people, close to half are Protestant, while around 200,000 are Catholic, according to estimates.

The Degar, referred to by French colonists as Montagnard or "mountain people", are the indigenous peoples of the Central Highlands, but have been accused by Vietnam's authorities of observing "an American religion" and of cooperating with American troops during the Vietnam War. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Vietnam).

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