Published: 10:00 GMT Standard Time - Thursday 22 March 2012
Church leader beaten unconscious by hired thugs in Vietnam
Country/Region: Vietnam, South and East Asia
A church leader in Vietnam was beaten unconscious with iron bars by a gang of thugs believed to have been hired by the authorities.
The 46-year-old was attacked on 23 February as he was making his way home after taking a funeral service in another village.
On the way back to my parish, three strangers on motorbikes came after me and beat me around the head, back, stomach and arms with two iron bars.
He came off his motorbike and was beaten until he passed out. The pastor suffered multiple injuries and cuts. The attackers damaged his motorbike and threw his watch into a nearby lake.
They had reportedly just been released from prison and apparently have connections with the local authorities, who try to prevent Christian ministers from taking services and funerals. Such groups are hired to attack church leaders and Christians in Kon Tum province in the central highlands, which the government has declared a “no religion zone”.
In a challenge to the authorities, the Bishop of Kon Tum, Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, has announced that he will take an Easter service in the parish where the pastor was attacked.
He has previously defied the Communist regime’s efforts to restrict religious freedom. Last Easter the bishop took services in a Montagnard village, where he had been prevented from leading Christmas celebrations a few months before. Afterwards, Bishop Michael and a local minister were detained by the police and interrogated for hours.
The Vietnamese authorities often harass and intimidate the country’s Christians. Unregistered churches and ethnic minority Christians in the central highlands and northwest provinces are particularly vulnerable to persecution.
Officials break up meetings, confiscate religious literature, and arrest and beat up Christians. Some are pressured to renounce their faith publicly, and hundreds have been sentenced to long prison terms.