Religion Bulletin, March 2023: Authorities Smash Front Gate of Protestant Family Prepare for a Nationwide Audit of “Merit” Monetary Donations

Religion Bulletin, March 2023: Authorities Smash Front Gate of Protestant Family Prepare for a Nationwide Audit of “Merit” Monetary Donations

[The Government's Reach]

Dak Lak Province: Authorities threaten, smash gate of family following Evangelical Church of Christ

On March 19, 2023, Tu Ebur commune authorities (Buon Ma Thuot City, Dak Lak Province) sent people to surround and threaten a family that was followers of the Evangelical Church of Christ, destroying the gate in front of their home.

The Montagnards Stand for Justice webpage reported that the house belonged to the family of Y'Wang Eban (also known as Ama Y'Pol), a member of the Evangelical Church of Christ. [1]
Y'Wang Eban’s family confronts authorities as they destroy his front gate. The photo was taken from a video clip.

Authorities in the Central Highland provinces have recently increased their repression against members of this church. The government accuses the organization of using religious activities to oppose the state, a claim which members deny.

Church members often face various forms of government repression, including obstruction of religious activities, physical attacks, threats, interrogation, and arrest.

Religious persecution in the Central Highlands has become increasingly severe, creating a tense atmosphere that could easily lead to larger conflicts.

National Audit of “Merit” Donations Imminent

The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism are set to audit the management of “merit” monetary donations at monuments across the country, including Buddhist temples. [2]

Plans for the audit were directed by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh via Circular #04, issued in January 2023, to manage such donations at religious sites.

The audit may force sites to manage monetary donations via bank accounts and written records of proceeds and valuable artifacts they received.

In addition, according to the circular, monuments must contribute a certain amount of money to the Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism for the restoration of other monuments.

Concurrently, Circular #04 also requires monuments to publicize revenues and expenditures surrounding monetary donations and sponsorships when donors or state agencies request.

Although the circular specifically stipulates ways to manage merit donations to ensure openness and transparency, the government has not yet issued any regulations on administrative sanctions related to the circular.

Kon Tum Province: Pastor Obstructed as He Held Mass

At 6:15 PM on March 22, 2023, Dak Nong commune authorities (Ngoc Hoi District, Kon Tum Province) violently obstructed a pastor from conducting mass for his parishioners.

The obstructed pastor, Fr. Francis Xavier Le Tien, is head of Dak Giac Parish and was celebrating mass at the parish's Pauline Chapel.
The head of Dak Nong Commune prevented a mass at Dak Giac parish’s Pauline Chapel. Photo: Kon Tum Diocese.

Authorities stated that because the state had not yet recognized the chapel, its religious activities were illegal. However, the Kon Tum provincial government has confirmed that it will deal with the officials who acted excessively to prevent the mass from happening. [3]

After the event, the Kon Tum episcopacy issued a notice condemning the Dak Nong commune authorities’ offensive actions. The notice also stated that the government had not yet recognized the chapel, among a number of others in the province. [4]

Catholic activities in the northern mountainous areas and the Central Highlands have long faced numerous obstacles due to the government’s refusal to recognize newly-established churches and chapels. All religious activities must be approved by the authorities before being organized, even if they’re purely religious in nature or conducted by local priests.

[New Religions]

Quang Nam Province: Practitioners from the World Mission Society Church of God Obstructed, and Their Belongings Confiscated

On March 4, 2023, Hoi An police (Quang Nam Province) prevented a group of practitioners from the World Mission Society Church of God from carrying out religious activities in Cam Ha Commune. [5]

Police stated there were six female and four male practitioners engaged in church activities.
Hoi An police prevent a group of practitioners of the World Mission Society Church of God from carrying out religious activities. Photo: Ho Chi Minh City Police Newspaper.

Police confiscated all of the group's belongings, including computers, speakers, 10 Bibles, five notebooks, 14 white towels, and other items.

The practitioners have been told not to organize illegal religious activities in unauthorized places.

The World Mission Society Church of God is among the new religions spreading in Vietnam. Although the church is not yet recognized by the state, people still regularly organize religious activities in their localities.

Authorities have continuously harassed groups associated with the church, preventing them from developing and operating openly. The government believes that the religion’s teachings are tinged with heresy and propagate superstition, though Vietnamese law still has no specific definition of “superstition.”

Cao Bang Province: No Households Continue to Follow the Duong Van Minh Religion in Ha Quang District

During a work meeting with the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, Ha Quang district authorities reported they had successfully suppressed all households following the Duong Van Minh religion after carrying out a suppression campaign that lasted more than nine months. [6]
The work meeting between Ha Quang District authorities and the Government Committee for Religious Affairs. Photo: Ha Quang district website.

In June 2022, Ha Quang District estimated that there were six communes with 849 people following the Duong Van Minh religion. Three months later, authorities forced 340 people to renounce the religion. [7]

Another district in Cao Bang Province, Hoa An, is also actively pursuing a suppression campaign to completely eliminate the religion. [8]

In mid-March 2023, the People's Police (Cong An Nhan Dan) newspaper reported that in Cao Bang Province, 72% of Duong Van Minh practitioners in 14 communes had renounced the religion and that all 15 of its churches had been closed. [9]

No Practitioners of the Duong Van Minh Religion Remain in Thai Nguyen, Lao Cai, and Tuyen Quang provinces.

The People's Police newspaper also confirmed that authorities had eradicated the Duong Van Minh religion in Thai Nguyen, Lao Cai, and Tuyen Quang provinces. [10]

According to the publication, Thai Nguyen provincial authorities forced more than 1,000 people to renounce the Duong Van Minh group by signing pledges not to follow the religion. Local authorities doggedly visited all households from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. to force them to renounce their religion.

In 2016, Lao Cai Province had 55 practitioners of the Duong Van Minh religion from 11 families. As of today, however, authorities have forced all these households to renounce the religion.

The People's Police newspaper did not mention the number of people who were forced to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion in Tuyen Quang Province.

Authorities note that the remaining practitioners are primarily in Bac Kan Province. The Internal Security Office stated that the province had forced 565 people in 10 communes to renounce the Duong Van Minh religion.

Today, Vietnam's central and provincial governments are doing their utmost to completely wipe out the Duong Van Minh religion. However, like many religions that have come before, practitioners will always find a way to maintain their faith despite the government’s heavy-handed persecution.

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