The communist campaign against Vietnam's Montagnard, Hmong, and unregistered house churches shows no signs of ending. These vibrant Christian movements are calling new attention to Vietnam's effort to repress them. Hmong believers, who number at least 250,000, are showing researchers countless documents spelling out the official campaign against their people. Hmong churches blossomed in the late 1980s as Hmong-language radio broadcasts reached their villages with the gospel. Persecution of Hmong leaders has been cruel. Dozens have spent years in substandard prisons. As of June, twelve church leaders remained in confinement. In the past five years, 14,000 Hmong seeking greater freedom have fled south to Vietnam's Central Highlands.
But recent comments from American mainline Protestants support the view of Vietnam's communists, who say religious freedom is secure in the southeast Asian nation of 79 million. Lonnie Turnipseed, a United Methodist and a retired Church World Service executive with extensive experience in southern Asia, recently told United Methodist News Service (umns), "While isolated incidents of religion-related harassment. … have occurred in some areas, these are not the result of government policy. There is clearly freedom of religion in Vietnam." umns quoted United Methodist John McCullough, chief executive of Church World Service, as praising "the cooperation between government and religious communities."
The government of Vietnam, stinging from the latest reports exposing its persistent abuse of human rights and religious liberty, has launched a propaganda counterattack this year—and some religious leaders are being used as political props in that effort. In mid-May, Vietnam's National Bureau ...1