The Mennonite Church in Vietnam is asking Christians worldwide to join them in fasting and prayer prior to the appeal hearing for two of its imprisoned church leaders. The office of the defense attorney has announced that the appeal will be heard by the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court on Tuesday, Apr. 12.
Le Thi Phu Dung, wife of imprisoned pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, called on Christians to fast and pray from the evening of Apr. 10 through the morning of Apr. 12 (Vietnam time).
Representing the Vietnam Mennonite Church, Le requested prayer for three of remaining six Mennonite church members convicted last November at the Ho Chi Minh Citys Peoples Court for supposedly inciting people to obstruct officials from carrying out their duties.
According to a report released last year by Calif.-based Compass Direct, those close to the situation said that the charges and trial were an artifice to take out of circulation Rev. Quang, the secretary general of the Mennonite Church in Vietnam. Quang, who also served as an active member of the Vietnamese Evangelical Fellowship, had actively campaigned against religious freedom and human rights abuses.
Sources say the appeal of Quangs three-year sentence and fellow Mennonite pastor Pham Ngoc Thachs nine-month sentence was cancelled without explanation just a day before it was to have originally taken place on Feb. 2. Lawyers acting on behalf of Quang informed his wife last week that Quangs appeal before the Peoples Supreme Court of Vietnam had been rescheduled for Apr. 12.
The church asks for prayer that God would work in the appeals hearing so that the judges would judge justly, that the imprisoned persons be released, that confiscated church materials be returned and for Christians who plan to attend the April 12 hearing, according to a statement released Thursday by the Mennonite World Conference (MWC).
Further, prayer that Christians in all the churches will keep unswerving faith in difficult times and have freedom to worship God is requested, the group added.
Quangs wife, in expressing thanks for the support and encouragement given to the church, the imprisoned leaders and their families, said that her husband is a "faithful servant of the Lord Jesus." She maintains that "Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and the Mennonite evangelists...never acted to prevent officials from carrying out their duties, and never violated the laws of Vietnam in the Mar. 2, 2004 incident.
"The tradition and the position of our Mennonite Church is to espouse peace, respect freedom and justice, and contribute to the building of a progressive society filled with love, expressing the love and salvation of the Lord Jesus to all people," she stated. We are assured that God will use his power to deliver his servants.
Le urges people to pray in the spirit of Isaiah 58:6-7, which states: "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter; when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"
And in citing Hebrews 13:3, Le said "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."
Meanwhile, sources say the appeal of the one-year sentence of Le Thi Hong Lien, the sole woman among six Mennonite church workers, cannot proceed after she reportedly suffered a mental breakdown because of the treatment she had received in prison.
Lien, a zealous church worker who specialized in teaching the Bible to small children, was reportedly transferred last month to the hospital in Bien Hoa, fifty kilometers north-east of Ho Chi Minh City. According to MWC, the move followed a concerted international appeal to Vietnamese authorities to provide Lien with the care and treatment she needed.
Prior to her transfer, Lien reportedly suffered in prison from severe mental illness for many months.