Washington, D.C.-based Christian Aid, which has been monitoring the situation of seventeen Christians of the Hmong tribe who were arrested last month in northern Vietnam, released a report on Wednesday with updates on the situation of the imprisoned believers, as well as the recent persecution that the Christian minority population in Vietnam has experienced over the past few months.
After several days of brutal beatings by police, [the seventeen believers] were made to sign documents claiming they renounced faith in Christ, wrote Christian Aid. Only then were they released.
According to Christian Aid, the leaders, who were arrested in October while meeting secretly in southern Vietnam for ministry training, were sent back to northern Vietnam and have taken refuge in a church, where other native Christian leaders are offering guidance and encouragement, helping the men know how to proceed with ministry after such a devastating ordeal and forced false confession.
Their future safety remains in jeopardy, Christian Aid reported. The government will ruthlessly monitor the leaders and remind them of the documents they were made to sign. Future arrests could lead to more severe torture, possibly resulting in death, as has been the case with other Hmong Christians.
The agency said that in the isolated mountain and jungle villages where most Hmong live, local authorities can treat them basically however they please with no worry of federal intervention.
In the past, this has included destruction of homes, churches and crops; confiscation of evangelistic materials accompanied by heavy fines; random arrests on nonexistent or false charges; and murder. In one reported incident of arrest on false charges, one Christian man was arrested for murdering his brother, who had actually died at the hands of police.
According to reports received by Christian Aid, at least two Hmong Christians have been killed because of their faith in the past year, while hundreds have been arrested. Earlier this year, five Christian workers were arrested and, like the 17 leaders recently released, beaten until they signed documents declaring they would not meet with other Christians.
The Hmong tribe is particularly targeted by Vietnam's communist authorities, in part because members have been so receptive of the Christian faith, Christian Aid stated. Because of persecution, Hmong congregations in northern Vietnam must be extremely secretive about meeting together.
Native missionaries report that believers constantly change times and places of church services to avoid detection by authorities, and often meet in small cell groups at night. It has been reported that many gospel workers have even chosen to sleep during the day and carry out evangelistic work after nightfall.
Despite this environment of opposition, Christian Aid reported that hundreds of tribal people are coming to the Lord through the work of native missionaries.
This makes the need for trained pastors great, the agency wrote. But with training so dangerous (the 17 Hmong leaders were arrested while attending a secret class), there are many more congregations than pastors.
Many pastors are responsible for 4-12 churches, the Christian Aid added.
The agency has asked for the prayers of Christian communities worldwide for the development of more church leaders, the safety of the recently released leaders, and for the encouragement and strength of present and future believers in the country.