A Land of Contradiction and Contrast

February 26, 2009

Burned down house

Christian Aid received the following praise report from a ministry leader in Vietnam:

"As you may remember, the Vietnamese government has been consistently ranked as one of the harshest persecutors of Christians in the world. During the past year, the government made a sudden change to its policy in certain areas. In most* areas, tribal house churches are now allowed. But in order to become legal, they must register with the government. A listing of the names of all church members must also be registered. And the churches have to get prior approval from the government for specific activities. This allows the government to closely monitor the churches."

Nevertheless, the ministry used this time of "freedom" for traveling into remote areas. "One of my most gratifying experiences was the ability to speak in areas previously prohibited from worshipping God at all," he told us.

Children whose father is in prison

Just a few years ago, more than 300 tribal pastors were put in prison–or simply vanished. No one has ever heard from them since. However, taking full advantage of this window of freedom, the ministry was able to make contact with 87 families of the prisoners. Many of these husbands received sentences ranging from 3 to 11 years for preaching the gospel. The leader reported, "We learned that many of these men were seriously ill. Several died in prison and others were sent home to die." Ministry workers were able to send a dozen of the pastors´ wives to visit their husbands for the first time. Because of the generous gifts from Christian Aid donors, they have been able to provide support of $300 per year to many of the families. These women and children were destitute when left with no one to earn income for them. Due to widespread general poverty, some were not even able to get help from other family members.

Child whose father is in prison

*Other areas did not fare as well. In some provinces, believers are still being persecuted not only by the government, but also by Buddhists. Rural areas suffer the most. When the communist government was criticized for this, it categorically denied any such restrictions or treatment. One remote tribe has been experiencing severe persecution for over five years. They are tortured, injured and their homes are destroyed and burned. Pastor Z expressed his sadness, "They are still living a nightmare. The government has done nothing to effect actual change in the treatment of Christians. Without outside accountability and a free press, we do not expect a remedy."