Vietnamese Mennonite church faces violent security raid

By staff writers
May 30, 2006

Vietnamese Mennonite church faces violent security raid

-30/05/06

A Mennonite Church in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has been violently raided by an estimated 50 public security officials.

The action was taken in connection with a grievance against a building permit being used by the church. But observers point out that its pastor is also a signatory of a democracy petition.

During the attack on the church and office building in Binh Khanh Ward, District 2, security operatives used considerable force, reportedly beating church members and construction workers alike.

According to the 8406 Group of democracy activists in Vietnam, a number of church members were badly injured as a result of being pushed from a height of five metres to the concrete floor.

A number of church members were arrested on 22 May, including former Mennonite prisoners Nguyen Hong Quang, Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Huu Nghia and Le Thi Hong Lien. All were released the following evening.

According to Compass Direct News, the Rev Quang had secured a building permit, dated 8 May, for the rebuilding of the church. During the raid, authorities claimed that the construction work exceeded the scope of the permit.

The ultimate motivation for the incident is difficult to determine, though some observers have suggested it may be rooted in the hostility of local officials towards the church.

This incident comes as Vietnam reaches the final stages of accession to the World Trade Organisation.

Tina Lambert, advocacy director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said today: ìThis is a disturbingly draconian response by the officials to a relatively minor issue.î

She continued: ìAs Vietnam looks to claim the benefits of World Trade Organisation membership, this must be accompanied by a much greater respect for the rights of its citizens. We hope that this issue is resolved without further complications.î

Mennonite pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and five others were imprisoned after being sentenced to terms ranging from six months to three years in connection with an incident in March 2004. Pham Ngoc Thach was the last of the six to be released, on 3 March 2006.

During the imprisonment of the Rev Quang, the Mennonite church in Ho Chi Minh City had been raided routinely by local officials.

The 8406 Group is the name adopted by the signatories of the 8 April 2006 ëDeclaration on Democracy and Freedom for Vietnamí. The Rev Quang and his wife had signed this declaration.

There are 1.3 million Mennonites worldwide. The Christian denomination originates from the radical wing of the reformation, and is known for its practical pacifism and justice and peace advocacy.

Along with other historic peace churches, Mennonites in North America are among the sponsors of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which came to prominence during the recent Iraq hostage drama.

More about Mennonites on Ekklesia and Metanoia Books here and here.

Vietnamese Mennonite church faces violent security raid

-30/05/06

A Mennonite Church in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, has been violently raided by an estimated 50 public security officials.

The action was taken in connection with a grievance against a building permit being used by the church. But observers point out that its pastor is also a signatory of a democracy petition.

During the attack on the church and office building in Binh Khanh Ward, District 2, security operatives used considerable force, reportedly beating church members and construction workers alike.

According to the 8406 Group of democracy activists in Vietnam, a number of church members were badly injured as a result of being pushed from a height of five metres to the concrete floor.

A number of church members were arrested on 22 May, including former Mennonite prisoners Nguyen Hong Quang, Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Huu Nghia and Le Thi Hong Lien. All were released the following evening.

According to Compass Direct News, the Rev Quang had secured a building permit, dated 8 May, for the rebuilding of the church. During the raid, authorities claimed that the construction work exceeded the scope of the permit.

The ultimate motivation for the incident is difficult to determine, though some observers have suggested it may be rooted in the hostility of local officials towards the church.

This incident comes as Vietnam reaches the final stages of accession to the World Trade Organisation.

Tina Lambert, advocacy director at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said today: ìThis is a disturbingly draconian response by the officials to a relatively minor issue.î

She continued: ìAs Vietnam looks to claim the benefits of World Trade Organisation membership, this must be accompanied by a much greater respect for the rights of its citizens. We hope that this issue is resolved without further complications.î

Mennonite pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and five others were imprisoned after being sentenced to terms ranging from six months to three years in connection with an incident in March 2004. Pham Ngoc Thach was the last of the six to be released, on 3 March 2006.

During the imprisonment of the Rev Quang, the Mennonite church in Ho Chi Minh City had been raided routinely by local officials.

The 8406 Group is the name adopted by the signatories of the 8 April 2006 ëDeclaration on Democracy and Freedom for Vietnamí. The Rev Quang and his wife had signed this declaration.

There are 1.3 million Mennonites worldwide. The Christian denomination originates from the radical wing of the reformation, and is known for its practical pacifism and justice and peace advocacy.

Along with other historic peace churches, Mennonites in North America are among the sponsors of Christian Peacemaker Teams, which came to prominence during the recent Iraq hostage drama.

More about Mennonites on Ekklesia and Metanoia Books here and here.

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