Interview with Professor Tuong Vu on the Vietnamese Communist Party: War Legacies and Future Prospects
Ninety-four years ago, on Feb. 3, 1930, the Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) was founded. The party took Vietnam into three
"I am not a criminal; I want to receive a public apology." - Pastor Vo Xuan Loan.
A week after Vietnam’s National Assembly elections in 2021, new COVID-19 cases emerged from the fourth outbreak in Ho Chi Minh City. Alongside this rise in cases, the reputation of Hoi thanh Truyen giao Phuc hung (Revival Ekklesia Mission) was tarnished; their name spread all over state-owned newspapers, and the group was accused of spreading the pandemic. On May 30 2021, the Police in Go Vap District, where the Mission operates, decided to file criminal charges against them.
Pastors Vo Xuan Loan (66), her husband, Phuong Van Tan (61), and the Mission’s followers were suddenly considered criminals by the whole country. The Vietnamese government quickly judged their actions, and domestic media repeated and spread this accusation. 
The public indignantly criticized and accused members of the Mission; even though the investigation had just begun, no trial had been held, and the government had not presented any epidemiological evidence.
In January 2022, the Go Vap district police announced that they were “temporarily suspending the investigation” because the case deadline had expired. The accusations were never proved.
The case continues to be suspended, but the stigma of being labelled as criminal haunts the two pastors.
For Vo Xuan Loan, it is an injustice that the Vietnamese authorities have not yet exculpated her and the other members of the Mission.
In our effort to bring attention to the case of the Revival Ekklesia Mission, Luat Khoa Magazine contacted the person most heavily accused - Pastor Vo Xuan Loan, co-director of the Mission.
“I need a reporter to interview me,” Pastor Loan said during a meeting with Luat Khoa Magazine. Before this interview, no domestic news agency other than Dan Viet Newspaper had reported her story. 
The transcript below is recorded and condensed from two conversations with Pastor Vo Xuan Loan. The transcript has not been changed in any way.
Some of the information was verified through a private conversation with two other members of the Revival Ekklesia Mission. The writer of Luat Khoa Magazine provides the text in italics and is enclosed in square brackets.
This article was published in Luat Khoa Magazine on May 30, 2022. Lee Nguyen translated this into English.
Pastor Vo Xuan Loan: After criminal charges were filed against us, I could not go abroad to give religious speeches anymore; my old passport expired, and the Immigration Department refused to issue a new one because my name was still attached to a criminal case.
I could no longer meet with the Mission’s members because the government had not yet re-issued our operating license. The Mission’s name and reputation were tarnished and associated with the term “pandemic cluster.”
Last year when I went to Quy Nhon for a trip, I met a taxi driver who did not know that he was driving the pastor of the Mission, so he kept cursing and speaking ill of our beliefs; he accused the Mission of spreading COVID-19.
I do not blame him or anyone else for how they perceive us because there have been many distortions and lies about us in the news. Up until this year’s Lunar New Year, the Thanh Nien Newspaper still published an online article with the title, “Spring came in the alley that used to be a cluster of COVID-19, caused by the Revival Ekklesia Mission,” which further slandered our name even though the Ho Chi Minh City Police suspended their investigation. 
A “guard station” was set up in front of my house. My next-door neighbor is a retired Party member, and he was given the responsibility of keeping me under surveillance. While other households in my street gradually started to treat me with more sympathy, he consistently reported to the police whenever he saw me go outside.
When I bought rice and helped carry a bag of vegetables for my other neighbor, he also called the police. The policeman immediately called and warned me, “You cannot do that.”
Unable to leave my house, I ordered food via Grab. Upon seeing the Grab delivery person, my neighbor called the police again. The officer who phoned me afterwards said, “What if the delivery rider gets infected by you and spreads COVID-19 to the public?” At that time, Grab Express was still allowed to operate by the city authorities.
I lived in my home but was treated like a criminal or someone held under house arrest. Why did they do this to me?
I wonder how the personal information of the Mission’s followers, such as their full names, phone numbers, dates of birth, home addresses, and the like, were made public in the media and on social network platforms. Previously, the secretary of the Mission only gave this information to the police and medical staff for COVID tracking. We received many phone calls, messages, and Facebook comments that cursed, insulted, and threatened to shoot and kill us.
Strangely, they asked only a few questions about Covid-19 but more about our Mission
They asked questions about how the Mission was founded, the organization’s structure, how money was raised and how we were funded, what the pastors taught, our religious beliefs, and even the Mission’s financial problems.
The police also wanted to interrogate the children of some of our followers. Last October, they sent a summons to five children; the oldest was 13 years old, and the youngest was only 9.  Some children who had heard this news couldn’t sleep at night, and one of them even said, “Dad ... I am afraid that the police will arrest me.” Another child in Nha Be panicked and cried for nearly four hours. One said, “Mom, I think the police only arrest robbers. I am not a bandit; why would the police want to arrest me?”
I begged the police only to interrogate the other adults and me in their investigation and not involve our children. The policeman and the inspector said, “Do not worry, we have a way to ask children; we will not scare them.” This meant that they would not honor my request.
After this incident, I went to each of the children’s houses and told their parents that we were not the culprits; we had the right to refuse and to protect our children.
Their parents refused to bring their kids to the police station, so the police asked them to sign some papers and explain their reasons. The parents signed. Some said their child was busy studying for exams, while others said they were afraid. Thank God the police have summoned no children since then.
After the lockdown ended, the Go Vap District police summoned me four times. During these sessions, they asked many questions not related to the pandemic investigation but about the history and operation of the Mission.
I could not count the number of times the police had called me; I felt they just called me whenever.
The police interrogated me when I was admitted to the Hospital for Tropical Diseases emergency room. A phone was attached to the hospital room wall, and while I was lying on the bed, gasping for breath like a fish out of water, the phone rang. A female voice said, “Miss Vo Xuan Loan, are you there? The police want to talk to you. If the police call you, please remember to pick up the phone and reply.”
I was overwhelmed and did not know what was wrong with me then. A doctor rushed me to the emergency room and installed an oxygen meter. I heard them say that my blood oxygen level was 75 percent [indicating that it was low and dangerous].
Later, my cell phone rang, but I could not pick it up. The phone on the wall rang again, and a female voice said, “The police are calling you. Please pick up the phone to answer.” But I could not even swipe my phone screen, and the nurse had to do it for me. On the other end of the line, someone immediately asked, “When did you come to Hanoi? And on what date did you leave Hanoi?”
I realized then that they treated me as both a patient and a criminal.
A few days later, my blood oxygen level gradually increased but was still below 93 percent [still at a dangerous level]. However, the strange investigations continued. I was wearing an oxygen mask while answering the questions of the police in a whisper while my voice was hoarse and weak.
Sometimes, I felt so stressed and could not reply to the phone call. There were also people claiming to be police officers of the Hop Dong Commune, Chuong My District, Hanoi City - where I used to go to preach before - who called me to inquire about what I did and who I met. When I told them I did not go to these locations, they cursed me for lying and not reporting truthfully.
Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control (HCDC) slandered me, my husband, and our followers. They said we were liars, did not honestly declare our infections, and concealed information from them.
Last year, my 89-year-old mother [who lived next to Ms Loan’s house] woke up and panicked because she did not know where I was taken. Suddenly, medical staff arrived to take her away to someplace she did not know. She was frightened, did not want to go with them, and refused to take a COVID-19 test. The staff did not provide any explanation and forcefully escorted her to the Can Gio quarantine zone. Four days later, my mother started to have diarrhea and showed disease symptoms.
Before her sudden disappearance, she was completely healthy. Yet, in the newspapers and on TV, this poor old woman was scolded by Doctor Nguyen Tri Dung, director of HCDC, who stated that because she “refused to cooperate, [we] could not investigate and track infected individuals, [and] had to ask the police to help us in taking her away.” 
In an interview with Zing News, Nguyen Duc Bao, head of the Department of Disease Control, Go Vap District Medical Center, stated that he had to use “Christ-centered friendship” to convince the Mission’s secretary to provide a complete list of members.  [Mr. Bao is a Catholic]
The truth is that when the police and medical staff arrived at my house, which is also the headquarters of the Mission, the Mission’s secretary could not print the entire list on demand because the printer was not working. However, she could still give the authorities the needed information because she had taken the initiative to write it down. A lot of details were misrepresented in this article.
Vu Chien Thang [deputy minister of Home Affairs] also owes the Mission and me an apology. He claimed that my husband and I were self-appointed pastors and that we should stop referring to ourselves as pastors to avoid misunderstandings. He also said that the Mission was only a religious group that got licensed under the ward management.  Would this mean that our license is worthless?
We are Protestants and believe that Lord Jesus Christ is always in our hearts. Our followers do not need to go to church to be considered pious. If anyone is sick, they can stay at home; no problem at all. So, when we received a notice from Ward 3, Go Vap District, about the epidemic situation and the regulation on the number of people allowed to gather, we complied.
None of the published articles referred to me as “COVID-19 Patient 'X,'” as they did with other cases. Instead, they directly and publicly named the Mission and me. If they discovered any positive cases anywhere, they would consider those cases to be “related to the Revival Ekklesia Mission,” even though our members have never been to any of those locations.
The press always quoted one-sided news from the government. HCDC concluded that my family and believers withheld information, and the newsrooms reported this verbatim without bothering to talk to my family or me. Then, they interviewed ordinary people about what they had thought of the Mission as the pandemic cluster. Of course, we received full criticism because the people the media spoke to did not know about us and only received their information from the newspapers and the internet.
State media created a bad image of the pastors’ families and the Mission. Hence, the netizens followed herd behaviour and crafted horrible lies. They made up a story that the Mission’s pastors declared: “With God, there is no need to wear a mask.”
Later, the police questioned a follower and asked if Pastor Loan had said this. Most of the Mission’s followers and I are educated, and we know what we should do to prevent this disease in the community. We are not childish and ignorant. One of our followers also donated 2,000 face masks to the Mission. So why did they say we did not wear masks? Pastor Tan [Loan’s husband] even stood by the door; if anyone forgot a mask, he would immediately give them one. We also gave a lot of masks to the community.
I was shocked. How could they lie so naturally? Where did they get these ideas? They have never met me before, so how can they slander my family and me so easily? Sometimes, I get angry when I read anything they say, but because I have God in my heart, I put this emotion aside.
At that time, I really wanted a reporter to interview me. I was looking forward to an opportunity to speak and say, “This is me. I am Vo Xuan Loan. Please listen to me.” But no one came. Eventually, a correspondent of a famous newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City contacted me. I was overjoyed and spoke to her about the lies spread about my family, but she messaged me sometime later and said that the article was not published.
I am grateful to the doctors and nurses at the Ho Chi Minh City Hospital for Tropical Diseases for saving me when I was in critical condition. At that time, I did not receive any dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
On the morning of my 10th day at the hospital, I suddenly received a notice to be moved to the Cu Chi Quarantine Zone, even though I still needed injections and water transfusions daily. My chest was still painful due to my collapsed lung.
They did not let me stay in the same room with my family when I was moved to the quarantine zone. Management placed me in a room with five other people.
My hands and feet shook, and I had to hold on to the wall to walk. I fell into the toilet and could not even eat by myself. I requested to be moved into the same room with my husband and daughter so my family could take care of me, but I was refused. Four days later, they moved me to a room on the same floor as my family, but I could not share my room with them.
When they brought my family from the first quarantine-gathering zone to Cu Chi, I was feeling very ill, lay on the hospital bed, and suffered in pain without any medical staff caring for me.
When my daughter ran around and asked for help, a staff member came into the room to measure my blood pressure. Afterwards, someone brought a wheelchair and pushed me somewhere to take an x-ray of my lungs. When they brought me back, I overheard the medical staff saying that both my lungs were severely injured.
When I returned to my room, I ate a bowl of soup after more than 12 hours with nothing in my stomach. In the middle of my meal, a voice from the loudspeaker said, “Vo Xuan Loan is scheduled to take a medical bus to a hospital.” I bewilderedly asked my daughter, “Do I have to go now? I am so weak. Can you ask the doctors if you can come with me?”
My daughter asked the medical staff, but the staff refused to let her join me. My husband brought me to the bus, and my whole family only knew that I was going to a hospital but did not know what was wrong with me and where I was specifically going. I looked down from the bus and saw my husband, daughter and son standing there dumbfounded. When the bus started to move, I burst into tears.
That afternoon, it started to rain, and the pain in my chest felt even worse. I thought to myself, “God, what is going on with me? Where am I going? My husband and my followers need me. In the past, whenever something happened, they would ask me for help. If something happened to me, who would aid them in my place?
My second child suffered from a form of mild mental disease. He was already a little scared when the authorities came and took my whole family away. In the quarantine zone, it was so hot, and there were afternoons when he had seizures, spoke nonsense, ran around aimlessly, and urinated in his pants.
His father had to restrain him several times. My family’s room had six people; some of them were not part of the Mission. My husband always had to clean up after our son and frantically apologize to the others in the room. Once, he texted me: “Pray for our son; his seizures are worsening.”
I prayed to God while I was lying between life and death. My husband was not in good health, my son was sick again, my elderly mother was on the other side of the city and was also close to death, and the public continued to harass and criticize my family. Why did I have to suffer so much? I felt resentful and cried all night.
Ordinary people already have a lot of hidden pessimism in their hearts. As a preaching pastor, I have been trained to overcome these challenges. But pastors are human too. I am also a mother, a wife, and a daughter in my family. My resentfulness made me feel like I could die at any moment.
I remember the bewilderment I felt when the authorities confronted me in my home. The police and the medical staff barged into my house in the middle of the night and forced my family to move to an unknown location without explanation.
I asked them where we had to go, and they shouted, “Get out of your house and get on the bus.”
When we arrived at the first gathering area, which was an old hospital in the Go Vap District, they left us and did not give us any instructions. No one announced that I was infected with COVID-19.
The following day when I went to the WC, a cadre yelled at me because I walked close to him when he was sitting near the toilet door. They treated me like a leper, but I did not know why.
Only on the 3rd day of my stay at the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases, they informed me that I was infected with the Indian variant of COVID-19 when I asked the doctor who examined me.
Looking back, I realize that I was acting very bewildered; I was terrified and did everything the police and the medical staff said, even though none of them gave me any official documents or anything to confirm their names or positions.
During one of the investigations, a policeman asked me, “If there was no one that informed you in advance about what was going on, then why would you obey everything they told you?”
I replied,” Yes, because I felt like I should.”
He retorted, “That is unbelievable. You should have asked them what was wrong with you, and you told me that you just went with them without asking about anything going on?”
He even mocked me and said, “This lady is this old and still does not know how to ask questions.”
My life is illuminated under the two-way cross. Vertical is my heart to God, and horizontal is my responsibility to society. I did nothing wrong; I want to clear my name and demand a public apology. I will not be vindicated if they just use the word “temporary” [suspension of the investigation].
I can forgive everyone and use God’s forgiveness and charity to move forward in my life. But history will reveal the truth, and no one can lie forever. History will remember that a pandemic happened in 2021 and that the Revival Ekklesia Mission and pastor Vo Xuan Loan were slandered, trampled on, and unjustly oppressed. History will record this incident, and history will never forget it. Don’t you agree?
According to the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, by the end of 2020, Protestantism in Vietnam now has more than 1.1 million followers, with about 100 Protestant organizations, denominations, and groups operating at nearly 5,500 locations across the country.  Unlike Catholicism, followers of various Protestant denominations can form independent groups/churches. Believers can also elect their pastors. Pastors can get married.
The Revival Ekklesia Mission is a Protestant church-at-home that operates independently of other Protestant organizations. The organization operates under a license for religious activities issued by the People’s Committee of Ward 3, Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City. Its license was issued in 2006 under the regulations of the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
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2. BBC News Tiếng Việt. (2022, January 31). Hội thánh Truyền giáo Phục Hưng: Tạm đình chỉ điều tra vụ án “làm lây lan Covid.” https://www.bbc.com/vietnamese/vietnam-60198020
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9. Khái quát đạo Tin Lành trên thế giới và ở Việt Nam – Giới thiệu các tổ chức tôn giáo đã được công nhận | Ban Tôn giáo Chính Phủ. BTGCP. http://btgcp.gov.vn/gioi-thieu-cac-to-chuc-ton-giao-da-duoc-cong-nhan/khai-quat-dao-tin-lanh-tren-the-gioi-va-o-viet-nam-post9m7eZdpo.html
10. Thủ tục đăng ký sinh hoạt tôn giáo tập trung, Bộ Nội vụ. https://www.moha.gov.vn/danh-muc/thu-tuc-dang-ky-sinh-hoat-ton-giao-tap-trung-37952.html
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