11 Christians sentenced to combined 90 years in prison in Vietnam go missing

(Photo: Unsplash/Tran Phu)

Eleven Vietnamese Christians, sentenced to a total of 90 years and eight months in prison for their religious activities, have mysteriously disappeared, raising significant concerns about the treatment of religious minorities in Vietnam. These individuals, arrested between 2011 and 2016, include six Protestants and five Catholics, now unaccounted for in the Southeast Asian nation’s prison system.

The six Protestants are associated with the unapproved Degar Protestantism, and the five Catholics are from the Ha Mon Catholic Church, said the U.S.-based persecution watchdog International Christian Concern, noting that both religious movements lack official recognition from the Communist regime of Vietnam, which frequently targets such groups under accusations of “undermining national unity policy.”

Protestants Ro Mah Pla, Siu Hlom, Rmah Bloanh and Rmah Khil were specifically targeted for their involvement in Degar Protestantism.

Meanwhile, Sung A. Khua faced arrest under the pretense of “deforestation” after refusing to renounce his faith, while Y. Hriam Kpa was detained for his refusal to close his church. The five Catholics — Runh, A. Kuin, A. Tik, Run and Dinh Kuh — faced similar charges for their involvement in Ha Mon Catholicism.

The Degar, also known as Montagnards, are an indigenous group in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, historically allied with the United States during the Vietnam War and known for their Christian faith.

Montagnard Christians are often coerced into renouncing their religion, facing severe repercussions like beatings and imprisonment if they resist, according to the Campaign to Stop Torture in Vietnam.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom has reported continuous violations in Vietnam, including the destruction of homes and expulsion of families like that of Sung A. Khua, to suppress Christian activities.

In 2018, Vietnam enacted the Law on Belief and Religion, which ostensibly regulates religious practices but has been criticized for its restrictive nature.

The USCIRF’s 2019 assessment labeled the registration process for religious groups as “complicated and burdensome,” noting prolonged delays in application approvals. This legislation not only controls recognized religions but also pressures unrecognized groups to conform to state-sanctioned practices, significantly hindering religious freedom.

U.S. Representative Glenn Grothman, in a 2022 statement, condemned the Vietnamese government’s actions, stressing the need for international leadership in defending religious liberty. He drew attention to the lack of awareness among many Americans regarding the severe human rights abuses occurring under communist regimes like that of Vietnam.

The latest annual USCIRF report, released in May, states that religious freedom violations in Vietnam have persisted, with ongoing persecution of independent religious communities. It says the government has been particularly aggressive toward ethnoreligious minorities, implementing directives that infringe upon religious practices and language, as seen in the forced renunciations and disruptions of religious gatherings.

USCIRF has recommended that Vietnam be redesigned as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act.

Courtesy of The Christian Post.