Date: September 18, 2020
USCIRF Welcomes Release of Pastor A Dao in Vietnam
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today welcomed the release of A Dao, a pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ. Vietnamese authorities had arrested him on August 18, 2016, after he returned to Vietnam from a conference about religious freedom in East Timor.
“I am delighted that Pastor A Dao is free, even as I lament the fact that prison robbed him of four years of his life,” USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr stated. “I hope this release is a sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy, including Nguyen Bac Truyen. In addition, USCIRF urges the government to take steps to ensure that local authorities respect A Dao’s freedom and safety should he choose to return to his home village.”
Commissioner Carr advocated for Pastor A Dao’s release through USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project, while Representative Glenn Grothman adopted him through the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission’s Defending Freedoms Project.
“This is a hallmark day for both Pastor A Dao and Vietnam,” added Representative Glenn Grothman. “Congratulations to Pastor Dao on being able to return to his family. I would like to meet him some day. I hope that his release is a sign of Vietnam transitioning from an anti-God totalitarian state to a country in which religion in general and Christianity in particular can be openly practiced. This also shows the importance of American elected officials speaking out against oppression and promoting the importance of religious freedom throughout the world. Religion should not be a tool to oppress any person nor a stain on their character. I hope other American Congressmen familiarize themselves with the oppression that religious minorities, which in many parts of the world are Christians, have to deal with on a daily basis.”
Pastor A Dao for years advocated for his fellow church members to enjoy religious freedom in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and elsewhere. In April 2017, a Vietnamese court tried and sentenced him to five years imprisonment for allegedly “helping individuals to escape abroad illegally” under Article 275 of the country’s Penal Code. He later claimed he was tortured in order to extract a confession. Under his prison sentence, A Dao was not expected to be released until August 18, 2021.
In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF called upon the U.S. government to increase funding for religious freedom projects in Vietnam. This past June, USCIRF released a country update about religious prisoners of conscience in Vietnam. In addition, USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava adopted Hoa Hao Buddhist lawyer Nguyen Bac Truyen.