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Prayer vigil for persecuted Christians, imprisoned Mennonites in Vietnam
June 24, 2004
The timing is ironic. On June 26, the Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of Zurich will apologize to Mennonites and other Anabaptist groups for the persecution of early Anabaptists during the Reformation. A special ceremony will commemorate a memorial to 16th century Anabaptist founder Felix Manz who was drowned for his Anabaptist convictions in the Limmat River in 1527.
The reality of persons persecuted for their faith has recently been brought home to Manitoba Mennonites. In March, four Vietnamese Mennonites were arrested on unspecified charges. The president and general secretary of the Mennonite Church in Vietnam, Nguyen Hong Quang was arrested on June 8 in Ho Chi Minh City on charges of "inciting others to interfere with an officer doing his duty,” reported the Cong An newspaper on June 12. Quang, who is also a lawyer, has been actively defending human rights cases in Vietnam.
On June 11, Human Rights Watch reported that on March 2 dozens of church members gathered at Quang's church after a dispute broke out between police and several Mennonites, who had photographed the motorbike of a plainclothes police officers posted outside the church. More than 100 paramilitary police officers dispatched to the scene scuffled with the crowd of church members. Police arrested four church members: church elder Nguyen Hieu Nghia, and Nguyen Thanh Nhan, Pham Ngoc Thach and Nguyen van Phuong, all of whom were reportedly severely beaten.
The arrest of Quang and the other four follow months of harassment. In January, the newly built home of Nguyen Cong Chinh, which also served as a church, was reportedly ransacked and completely destroyed by government authorities. Chinh and other Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam have been facing increasingly severe political persecution for exercising the religious freedom granted by their country’s constitution.
On June 17, representatives of Mennonite Church Canada and the Christian Vietnamese community met in Calgary with Richard Lecoq, Canada’s Ambassador to Vietnam, and personally handed over a letter appealing to the ambassador to investigate and “do whatever you can so that the harassment of Mennonites would be stopped as soon as possible.”
On July 9, in Winkler, Manitoba, as part of its annual assembly Mennonite Church Canada will raise funds for churches around the world who suffer under political pressure. The Friday Festival in the Park is billed as a time to “celebrate faith, family and friends”, with intergenerational contests, games, live music, and a BBQ supper. The event begins at 3:30 pm in the Winkler Park.
Persecution of Christians and people of other faiths continues today. The International Day of Prayer web site estimates that 200 million Christians around the world are persecuted for their faith. It says another 350 million face discrimination and restrictions. The Mennonite community of Manitoba appeals to all faith groups to attend the prayer vigil and to peacefully advocate on behalf of persecuted churches and people of faith in Vietnam and other countries. Anyone interested in taking action on behalf of the Vietnamese church can visit www.mennonitechurch.ca for details.
Detailed information at http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/programs/peace/vietnam/
Pastor Nhien Pham, North American Vietnamese Fellowship:
Pastor Luc Tran, Winnipeg Vietnamese Mennonite Church:
Gordon Janzen, Mennonite Church Canada Mission Partnership Facilitator