Wednesday, June 1, 2016

RLPB 359. Vietnam: serious suffering as persecution escalates

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 359 | Wed 01 Jun 2016

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plus – urgent prayer request from Iran.
By Elizabeth Kendal

Last week's RLPB 358 (24 May) requested prayer for Protestant Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh (45), his wife Tran Thi Hong and their children in Vietnam's Central Highlands province of Gai Lai. As an active evangelist and courageous religious liberty advocate, Pastor Chinh has long suffered persecution at the hands of Communist Party officials.
Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh (2011)
On numerous occasions since 2003 he has been beaten up, had his possessions confiscated and been temporarily detained. Routinely his family would be made homeless, and his chapel demolished. Arrested on 28 April 2011, Pastor Chinh was sentenced on 31 July 2012 in the Gia Lai People's Court to 11 years in prison for 'undermining national unity'. After his arrest he spent 20 months in solitary confinement in Gia Lai's T20 prison. In May 2012 he was assaulted by police while praying in his cell. In August 2013 he was beaten savagely in An Phuoc prison when guards incited prisoners to attack him. He has been assaulted by guards wielding batons, stun guns and pepper spray. He has been prohibited from praying in his prison cell and denied access to a Bible. Pastor Chinh has also been subjected to humiliating and traumatising Cultural Revolution-style criticism sessions which also work to fuel prison inmate hostility against him.

Mrs Hong after beating source
14 April 2016
Pastor Chinh's wife, Mrs. Tran Thi Hong, is also targeted for constant persecution for, like her husband, she too is a courageous religious liberty advocate. On 30 March 2016 local regime officials forcefully prevented Mrs. Hong from attending her scheduled meeting with a US delegation led by David Saperstein, Ambassador At Large on International Religious Freedom. The meeting only went ahead after Mrs Hong managed to inform Mr Saperstein that she had been ambushed, seized and escorted back home. At this point, Mr Saperstein intervened. Subsequently, however, on the morning of 14 April, officials abducted Mrs Hong from her home and took her to the office of the People's Committee of Hoa Lu Ward, where she was interrogated and beaten by plainclothes agents for three hours, leaving her with injuries to her head, knees, legs, hands and feet. As noted in RLPB 358, Mrs Hong was detained and violently interrogated three times in May. On the third occasion (13 May), her distressed 18-year-old son was also violently assaulted. On 27 and 28 May, Mrs Hong was again forcefully dragged to the police station for interrogation.

In Washington, 10 May 2016
testimony (pdf)
The news of the violent persecution of Mrs Hong comes as Mrs Vu Minh Khanh, wife of imprisoned Protestant Christian religious liberty advocate Nguyen Van Dai, travels in the West to raise awareness of her husband's plight. Nguyen Van Dai has been detained without charge since 16 December [see RLPB 354 (27 April)]. Dai has not been permitted to see his wife or his lawyers, leaving Mrs Khanh unsure where her husband is and what condition he is in. What we know of the persecution of Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and that of his wife Mrs. Tran Thi Hong helps us imagine the plight Nguyen Van Dai and the fate that awaits Mrs Vu Minh Khanh on her return to Vietnam.

Furthermore, on 5 May Pastor Dang Ba Nham and his wife, along with church elder Hoang Ngoc Hung and new believer Mrs Phan Thi Thanh Huyen, gathered on a roadside in Vinh City, Nghe An Province (north central coast). All belong to the Vietnam Good News Mission Church. As Pastor Nham prayed a blessing over Mrs Huyen's property, a large pickup truck with red military plates veered across the road and drove directly into the small group. Pastor Nham (56), who had faced strong opposition to his evangelistic ministry, died at the scene. New believer Mrs Huyen, whose conversion triggered strong opposition from her relatives, died of her injuries the following day. Pastor Nham's wife and church elder Hoang Ngoc Hung have undergone complex surgeries for critical injuries. According to Morning Star News (MSN), both are fighting for their lives. Local sources also told MSN that during Pastor Nham's funeral, when the speaker asked, 'Who will take his place?' some 30 young people stood in response. This was despite nobody believing this 'accident' was an accident -- Communist Party officials routinely stage 'accidents' by which 'trouble-makers' are eliminated.


* intervene for imprisoned Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, his persecuted and wounded wife Mrs Tran Thi Hong and their family; for Christian advocate Nguyen Van Dai (imprisoned without charge), his wife Mrs Vu Minh Khanh and their family. '... let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.' (Amos 5:24 ESV)

* bring comfort to the Vietnam Good News Mission Church in Vinh City, as members grieve the loss of a pastor-evangelist and a new believer; may our merciful God speak healing into the bodies of church elder Hoang Ngoc Hung and Pastor Nham's wife as they struggle to survive horrendous injuries and loss.

'I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.' (Psalm 30:1-2 ESV)

Maryam (Naseem) Naghash Zargaran is an Iranian convert and prisoner for Christ who suffers from congenital heart disease [see RLPB 366 (18 Nov 2015), includes picture]. Middle East Concern reports that Maryam recently started suffering pain in her ears, accompanied by severe headaches. Refused medical attention, Maryam commenced a hunger strike on 27 May. She is seriously ill. Her fellow prisoners are supporting her by forgoing family visits until Maryam receives proper medical care. The ascendant regime in Tehran has no need of Maryam. She needs divine intervention. PLEASE PRAY.

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* REMINDER: Pray for Muslims during RAMADAN, 6 June to 5 July.

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Arrested in April 2011, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh (45), an evangelist and courageous  religious liberty advocate, was sentenced in July 2012 to 11 years imprisonment for 'undermining national unity'. His wife, Tran Thi Hong, also a courageous religious liberty advocate, continues suffering violent persecution from Communist Party officials. Arrested in December 2015, Christian religious liberty advocate Nguyen Van Dai remains detained without charge, denied access to his wife and lawyers. His wife, Vu Minh Khanh, is risking much to raise awareness of his plight. On 5 May a pastor and a new member of a church in Vinh City were killed and the pastor's wife and a church elder were critically wounded when a military vehicle 'accidentally' drove into them on a footpath. Please pray for Vietnam and its Christians.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat.

Elizabeth Kendal’s new book, After Saturday ComesSunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, is presently being published by Wipf and Stock (Eugene, OR, USA) and will be available shortly.