In the latest incident of repression by authorities against Mennonites and other Christians in Vietnam, a Mennonite pastor was sentenced to three years in prison for obstructing people from carrying out official duties, an official said. The Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang and five other believers were convicted after a half-day trial at the Ho Chi Minh Citys Peoples Court on Friday.
Nguyen, who served as the secretary general for the Mennonite Church, was arrested in early June when he was "tricked out of his house by police posing as government land authorities," according to sources. Though the Mennonite Church is considered illegal by the Vietnamese government, judicial authorities said that he was not arrested for religious reasons, but because he was inciting the population to resist public security officers. According to Italy-based AsiaNews, the charge dates go as far back as March 2, when Nguyen led tens of people in protest against the incarceration of four Mennonite clergymen.
In addition to being secretary general of the Mennonite Church, Nguyen was also a lawyer, human rights activist, defender of religious freedom, and an advocate for the rights of the ethnic Montagnard minority, farmers and political prisoners. He was also head of the legal committee for the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowshipan organization of about 30 unregistered house church organizations representing several hundred house-churches.
Mennonite groups had registered appeals on behalf of Nguyen and the other imprisoned Mennonite Christians with the Vietnamese ambassador to the U.N., Vietnams Bureau of Religious Affairs and to the Canadian embassy in Vietnam. However, there has been no news on their progress.
According to AsiaNews, Nguyens sentence is the latest in a series or repressive steps taken by the authorities against Mennonites and other Christians in Vietnam. Last month, the police demolished a Mennonite chapel in Kontum province.