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Prayer vigil for persecuted church: Vietnam

   

June 30, 2004
-by Annemarie Plenert

 


Sonja Klassen prays for persecuted Christians in Vietnam. Klassen herself was sent to Siberia at the age of eight.

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Winnipeg, Man.— The recent arrests in Vietnam of Mennonite church leaders led about fifty people to gather at Home Street Mennonite Church here on June 27 to pray for the persecuted church around the world.

The mood in the room was solemn and prayerful. After an introduction to the issue by Norm Voth, director of evangelism and service ministries at Mennonite Church Manitoba, participants gathered in small groups for heartfelt prayer.

Representing the North American Vietnamese Mennonite Fellowship (NAVMF) was Van Hoa Chau. He said that Pastor Quang, a lawyer, was a caring and generous person who would take people into his home if they had no other place to go, and would advocate for religious and ethnic minorities in court. Local authorities have put considerable pressure on Quang and the Mennonite church in Vietnam, harassing and preventing groups from meeting and worshipping. There have been two reported attempts to kill Quang. Since his arrest, his house has been ransacked. Sources say police are fabricating false charges against him.

Participants of the vigil asked if there was more they could do. Chau said that it is necessary to find new ways of respectful communication with Vietnamese authorities to convince them to release Quang and others who have been imprisoned. The church in Vietnam has a policy of non-involvement in politics as part of how they understand the peace church, so the intervention must come from outside. “Right now, I hope that God will open a new way for us to work,” Chau said. He estimated there are 8-10,000 Christians in Vietnam who embrace the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (which was translated into Vietnamese several years ago) and express a desire to join the worldwide Mennonite Church.

Other ways of aiding the Vietnamese Mennonites are through prayer, letter-writing campaigns to Canadian diplomatic officials, and monetary aid. The NAVMF representing eight congregations and about 500 members has sent money to Vietnam only to have it taken by the authorities; their budgets are stretched.

Participants prayed for the families of those imprisoned, and for the persecuted church in general, and for God’s hand in speaking to authorities in such situations. A strong sense of solidarity pervaded as they also prayed that people in North America would remember that not everyone is allowed to be a Christian, and people are tortured for things that taken for granted in the West. Many asked if they would have the same strength if their faith were under siege.

The vigil resonated with participant Sonja Klassen, who grew up in Soviet Russia and was sent to Siberia with her family when she was eight. Despite being put in a forced labour camp for her family’s faith, where both her parents died, she says that she only survived because of God’s providence.

Mennonite Church Canada and Manitoba have invited congregations in other area conferences to hold prayer vigils for the persecuted church. Another is planned in Calgary on July 4. More information about situation in Vietnam can be found at http://www.mennonitechurch.ca/programs/peace/vietnam/.