Date: July 3, 2019
by Elizabeth Kendal
If the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood is 'Islam is the solution', then the unofficial slogan of Western parliaments must surely be 'Money is the solution'. As Vietnam has opened up its economy, the West has rewarded it, all the while demanding nothing, but anticipating change. Needless to say, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) has played the game to perfection.
Despite twelve years of remarkable economic development, the human rights situation has not improved. In fact, since 2016, human rights have deteriorated markedly as the Communist Party head and President of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong (75), has moved to consolidate and strengthen CPV control.
As in China, so in Vietnam: regime survival depends on money (to satiate the masses and legitimise Communist Party rule) and the snuffing out of all dissent. Soon even more money will be flowing in, for, on 30 June, the European Council signed a free trade agreement with Vietnam, confirming to the CPV that human rights are irrelevant. Despite being a repressed and persecuted minority - comprising around 9.4 percent (7.7 percent Catholic and 1.3 percent Protestant) - Vietnamese Christians are at the forefront of pro-democracy, social justice and human rights advocacy.
On 29 April 2019 the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report and called on the US State Department to re-designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC), Tier 1. As the USCIRF reports: 'In 2018, religious freedom conditions in Vietnam trended negative.' Police violence and CPV-commissioned thuggery are escalating, draconian laws are accumulating and prisons are filling up with peaceful activists who are being sentenced to increasingly lengthy prison terms.
Kidnapped and severely beaten before being arrested and sentenced to 12 years' jail, ostensibly for his religious liberty advocacy, the plight of Protestant Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (48) is a case in point [see RLPB 479 (31 Oct 2018)].
In May, authorities in north-central Vietnam's Nghe An Province arrested Nguyen Nang Tinh (42), a Catholic parishioner who teaches vocals at Nghe An College of Arts and Culture. A humanitarian known to be active in community work, Tinh was arrested at his home while having breakfast with his sons. His wife, Nguyen Thi Tinh, told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that no warrants for his arrest had been shown and no family members have been allowed to visit him.
According to an official police newspaper, Tinh was arrested over a post on Facebook, for 'producing, disseminating or spreading information and documents aimed at undermining' Vietnam.
According to the database of 88 Project, Vietnam is currently holding 263 'activists' (prisoners of conscience). This figure corresponds with the USCIRF's figure of 244 prisoners of conscience as of 31 December 2018, as well as 20 detained activists awaiting trial. RFA carries numerous reports of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience being beaten, choked, held in solitary confinement and forcibly medicated. Many of these prisoners are Christians; some had advocated for religious freedom, democracy and social justice, while others had simply professed or practised their Christian faith.
As the USCIRF makes clear, Vietnam's ethnic minorities face 'especially egregious persecution for the peaceful practice of their religious beliefs, including physical assault, detention, or banishment'. According to the USCIRF, an estimated 2,000 Protestant ethnic Hmong and Montagnard households in the Central Highlands (comprising approximately 10,000 individuals) continue to be stateless because local authorities refuse to issue ID cards, household registration and birth certificates, 'in many instances in retaliation for refusing to renounce their faith'.
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL
* bless, comfort, sustain and encourage prisoners Nguyen Trung Ton and Nguyen Nang Tinh; may the Lord Jesus Christ bring healing to Pastor Ton's body; may the Spirit lift up Ton and Tinh's heads (Psalm 3:3) and may the God of justice intervene for Ton, Tinh and all Christians unjustly imprisoned in Vietnam (Amos 5:24).
'But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." ' (2 Corinthians 12:9a ESV)
* sustain and encourage the Church in Vietnam as repression escalates; may the Lord bless all church leaders with divine wisdom as they seek to lead Christ's precious flock through difficult days; may the Lord flood his Church with all the faith and grace believers will require if they are to 'shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life' (from Philippians 2:14-16 ESV).
* awaken men and women of influence in this world - in particular those who formulate foreign policy - to the folly of trusting that 'money is the solution' - as if money can solve the problem of sin!