House Pastors Jailed in New Crackdown

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Seven pastors of unregistered churches now languish in Vietnamese jails as the country's Communist rulers move to control burgeoning house churches.

This past August, three Vietnamese evangelists, belonging to the unofficial Assemblies of God in Vietnam, were jailed for three years. Authorities had accused them of being "fake Christians" and of "illegally propagating their beliefs." Thirty-three-year-old Lo Van Hen, his cousin Lo Van Hoa, 37, and Nguyen Van Vuong, 34, all pastored house churches in their rural hometown of Dien Bien Phu in northwest Vietam.

According to the leader of their denomination, Tran Dinh Ai, "Lo Van Hen was an outstanding evangelist; in his first month alone he had led five villages, totaling 735 people, to the Lord." The three were sentenced to "thirty-six months," not merely three years. Ai explains, "If they were given three years, they might be released after two for good behavior, like I was; but thirty-six months means they must serve every month—there is no possibility of an early release."

CLIMATE WORSENS: Local sources blame the arrests on a worsening climate for unregistered churches in Vietnam following the Eighth Communist Party Congress in June, which vowed to restore party authority to "every facet of Vietnamese life." Also blamed is the ideological sensitivity in that location. Said a close friend of the three, "Dien Bien Phu is very famous in Vietnam. We defeated the French there in 1954, and government authorities love to tell visitors that there are no pagodas and no churches there; but these three [pastors] were very successful in church planting in this very area."

In addition, belonging to an unregistered ...

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