Vietnam burns homes of Christians

Quang Ngai, Vietnam - Vietnamese authorities burned more than 10 homes of tribal Christians who refused to deny their faith, a U.S. persecution monitor reported.

Christians in Suoi Rut hamlet, Doi Sau village, Quang Ngai province, were forced to flee their village July 21 and now are searching for a new place to live, according to Washington, D.C.-based International Christian Concern.

The victims belonged to the Evangelical Church of Vietnam, which has formal recognition by the Vietnamese government.

But the local communist authorities publicly have stated "the Christian religion is America's religion, and is not allowed here."

ICC released a statement from a pastor of the Hre tribe:

Sunday, Aug. 21, 2005, at 8:00 a.m., Mr. Dinh van Hoanh, police chief of Son Thuong village and his assistant, Mr. Thai Mai Quan, came to Mr. Dinh van Hoang's house and said: "We do not allow any Christians to live here. If you want to stay you must sign this paper to declare that you and your family are renouncing your faith."

Hoang refused, and the police chief called numerous officials, including Dinh van Xoa, hamlet chief, and Dinh van Hoach, his assistant, to come and destroy Hoang's house.

The officials told Hoang that if he recanted his faith, they would rebuild his house, but Hoang again refused.

The authorities then destroyed his animal pens.

ICC points out that the U.S. State Department last fall designated Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern, which requires issuance of penalties or benchmarks of improvement within six months.

But no penalties or benchmarks were assessed by last spring due to political pressures and assurances from the Vietnamese government that its behavior, including persecution of tribal Christians, would cease.

In June, at the time of President Bush's historic meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom reported beatings, forced renunciation of faith and land confiscations carried out against Hmong Christians.

Freedom House says the oppression of religious minorities in Vietnam continued despite a May 5 agreement with the U.S. that Vietnam would liberalize its treatment of religious believers.

In April, according to reports, officials seized the properly registered land of 12 Christian families in Lu Khai Villiage, in the Ta Pinh Commune of Sa Pa District.

Members of the families said officials told them their land was seized because they "believe in a Christian God."

Officials reportedly informed the 12 families that their land would be reinstated if they signed an agreement renouncing Christianity. They also threatened to confiscate the land of 33 other Christian families.