Mennonite Pastor Released from Jail in Vietnam

Officials in Vietnam have released an imprisoned Mennonite pastor who has played a critical role in religious freedom and the advocacy of human rights in the country.

"Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang has been united with his family and his congregation at the facility of the Vietnam Mennonite Christian Church in Ho Chi Minh city," said Vietnamese American Public Affairs Committee spokesman Dan Duy Hoang informed the Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Quang, a 46-year-old pastor of the Vietnam Mennonite Christian Church, was convicted in November with five other members of Vietnam’s Mennonite Church for “obstructing people from carrying out official duties.”

At a four-hour trial at the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on Nov. 12, Quang was sentenced to three years imprisonment and his co-workers—Pham Ngoc Thach, Nguyen Van Phuong, Le Thi Hong Lien, Ngyuen Thanh Nhan, and Hieu Nghia—were given sentences ranging from 9 months to 2 years.

Since then, four of the six Mennonite Christians have been released. The remaining two members of the “Mennonite Six”– Quang and Evangelist Pham Ngoc Thach – were still in prison after an appeal made against their jail sentences was denied in April.

With the recent emphasis on Vietnam’s human rights placed by the U.S. government, the extent of liberty granted to Quang is being questioned and monitored extensively.

"What we need to see now is whether Pastor Quang will have the liberty to lead his congregation or whether the government is just transferring him from a prison camp to a form of house arrest due to international pressure," Hoang said.

The released Mennonite pastor was said to be in poor health, mostly due to the physical labor he experienced during his imprisonment.