Religion Bulletin, May 2023: Government Arrests Member of Evangelical Church of Christ, U.S. Strongly Condemns Vietnam on Lack of Religious Freedom

Authorities pursue increased persecution and dogged eradication of religion.

Religion Bulletin, May 2023: Government Arrests Member of Evangelical Church of Christ, U.S. Strongly Condemns Vietnam on Lack of Religious Freedom

[The Government’s Reach]

Phu Yen: Authorities Arrest a Member of Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ

On May 18, 2023, the Phu Yen provincial police’s Security Investigation Bureau arrested and prosecuted Nay Y Blang, a member of the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, for "abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals." [1]
The Phu Yen Security Investigation Bureau carries out the arrest and detention of Nay Y Blang. Photo: Phu Yen provincial police.

Phu Yen provincial police alleged that Nay Y Blang proselytized and organized numerous illegal religious activities that enticed others to participate in contravention of the law. In addition, he has been accused of providing false information to Voice of America.

In April 2023, Dak Lak provincial police also arrested another practitioner from the same church. [2]

The Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ is facing heavy persecution from the Vietnamese government, a trend likely related to international advocacy efforts by church members in the United States.

Vietnamese authorities are increasingly using the crime of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals” (Article 331, 2015 Penal Code, amended in 2017) to arrest and prosecute those who exercise their rights, with religious liberty activists the top target. Those who violate Article 331 can be sentenced to up to seven years in prison. [3]

Dak Lak: Authorities harass independent Protestants

The Montagnards Stand for Justice web page reported that on May 29, 2023, Dak Lak provincial authorities sent a summons to two Independent Home Evangelical Church practitioners because of their involvement in a case concerning the "undermining of national unity" in Buon Don District. [4]

The two practitioners are Y Bay Eban and Y Wen Nie, who reside together in the Cu Kuin District, Dak Lak Province. Three other independent Protestants in Dak Lak were also forced to report to the police station for questioning.

According to RFA, all three were from Ea Bhok Commune. They have been identified as Y Bhuar Bdap, a minister with the Gospel Evangelical Church in Ako Emong Village, Y Broc Bya, also a minister, and Y Gruih Nie, a practitioner. all of whom are members of the Independent Home Evangelical Church in Ea Khit Village, Cu Kuin District. [5]
Y Bay Eban and Y Wen Nie. Photos: Montagnards Stand for Justice.

According to RFA, police arrested Y Bhuar Bdap and Y Gruih Nie while they were on their way to a prayer service and Y Broc Bya while he was working in the fields with his wife.

The Independent Home Evangelical Church has repeatedly applied to the government for instructions on registering activities, but local authorities have not responded.

The government has banned independent Protestant churches in the Central Highlands due to concerns surrounding security and anti-state propaganda during prayer sessions. In recent years, the authorities have resolutely sought to eliminate these churches.

[New Religions]

State Press Report that World Mission Society of God Has Come Roaring Back

In mid-May 2023, a series of state-owned newspapers published articles warning people that the World Mission Society Church of God had come roaring back in numerous locations, including Thanh Hoa and Vinh Phuc provinces and the city of Hanoi. [6] [7] [8] [9]

Dak Nong Newspaper reported that the church currently has more than 5,000 practitioners in Vietnam. [10]

The World Mission Society Church of God, among the more active new religions, faces various forms of government repression. Currently, congregations operate more discreetly but are still fiercely stifled by authorities. [11]

State press accuses the church of being heretical, deceiving people, challenging tradition, and destroying families.

Such claims aim to discourage people from joining new religions; currently, the Vietnamese government does not allow any of these new religious groups to operate.

[Religion 360*]

U.S. releases 2022 International Religious Freedom Report: Conditions in Vietnam deteriorating

In mid-May 2023, the U.S. State Department released its 2022 International Religious Freedom Report on Vietnam. According to the document, the Vietnamese government suppresses religion in all aspects. [12]

Vietnamese authorities use various measures against religious practitioners and activists, including applying legal provisions, obstructing religious activities, deploying strict surveillance, summoning followers for questioning, coercing them to renounce their faith, and arbitrarily arresting and imprisoning them.

These measures are used to eliminate unregistered religious groups, new religions (so-called “false religions”), registered groups that do not comply with government regulations, and those who exercise their rights beyond the limits allowed by authorities.

The report touched on the following incidents:

  • In May 2022, Tuyen Quang provincial authorities handed 15 Hmong practitioners of the Duong Van Minh religion prison sentences ranging from two to four years for obstruction of officials (Article 330, 2015 Penal Code, amended in 2017) and violations of regulations on occupational safety, occupational hygiene, and safety in crowded places (Article 295). The 15 individuals are among 56 Hmong practitioners detained at the funeral of founder Duong Van Minh in December 2021. The incident occurred when practitioners protested against the local government prohibiting funerals under the pretext of COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. A number of practitioners said police assaulted them and threatened to detain them unless they signed confessions and pledges renouncing their faith.
  • On July 20, 2022, six members of Thien Am Ben Bo Vu Tru [Zen Meditation on the Edge of the Universe], also known as Tinh That Bong Lai [Bong Lai Temple], were sentenced to between three and five years in prison for “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe upon the interests of the state and the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals" (Article 331).
  • For the fourth year in a row, authorities did not recognize any new religious organizations in 2022, including branches of previously-approved larger groups. For example, the Baptist Church of Vietnam has submitted approximately 40 applications for mass religious activities in the northern mountainous provinces but with almost no success. Furthermore, many religious groups have submitted applications for registration but have not been recognized.

The report also addressed conflicts between registered and unregistered religious group members and between believers and non-believers.

According to the report, independent Cao Dai practitioners in the southwest Mekong Delta region have faced harassment from state-recognized Cao Dai practitioners. Monks from the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam in Cu Chi District, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), have also reported being harassed by the people from the local community. Police are said to have turned a blind eye to these harassment cases.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announces a report on the state of religious freedom in 2022. Photo: U.S. State Department.

The report further stated that government officials in different parts of the country continue to monitor, interrogate, arbitrarily detain, and discriminate against certain individuals, at least in part due to their faith or religious affiliation. Most victims in such incidents are members of unregistered groups engaged in political or human rights advocacy or with ties to individuals and organizations abroad that were critical of the government.

There have also been instances of local authorities disrupting gatherings and confiscating publications of various religious groups. Among them are long-standing organizations such as the Catholic Church or lesser-known and unregistered groups such as the Pure Hoa Hao Buddhist Sangha in An Giang Province, the Nhat Quan religion in Thua Thien Hue Province, the Evangelical Church of Christ in Dak Lak and Phu Yen provinces, and Falun Gong in Lam Dong Province.

In particular, the report argued that the Vietnamese government had abused COVID-19 restrictions to limit and prohibit religious practices, citing as an example the disruption of Mass in Vu Ban Township, Lac Son District, Hoa Binh Province, presided over by the archbishop of Hanoi, Vu Van Thien.

In addition, the report documented the many land disputes between authorities and religious organizations, including those involving Thien An Monastery and Thua Thien Hue provincial authorities, Thien Quang Pagoda in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, and Con Dau Parish in Da Nang.

Before the report’s release, on December 2, 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that Vietnam would be added to the U.S. Special Watch List concerning religious freedom. [13]

As with every year, Vietnamese state media continue to refute the report. Dai Doan Ket [Greater Unity] Newspaper asserted that this year's State Department report lacked objectivity. [14]

Further reading: Why does the Vietnamese government reject new religions?

U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom: Vietnam among the worst countries for religious liberty

On May 1, 2023, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report on International Religious Freedom for 2023. [15]

USCIRF continues to recommend that the U.S. State Department include Vietnam on its list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) regarding religious freedom because of systematic, persistent, and severe religious persecution.
USCIRF recommends the United States include 17 countries (in red on the map) on the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) regarding religious freedom. Source: USCIRF.

According to the report, in 2022, the Vietnamese government persecuted a wide range of religious communities, especially unrecognized religious groups such as independent Protestants in the Central Highlands and practitioners of Duong Van Minh, Falun Gong, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao Buddhism, and the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam. Even religious groups and organizations recognized by the government, including Catholic organizations, have been persecuted.

USCIRF accuses the Vietnamese government of harassing, disrupting, and banning peaceful religious activities conducted by unregistered Montagnard Protestant groups.

Vietnamese authorities have threatened practitioners with imprisonment and heavy fines and have coerced adherents into renouncing their religion or joining state-controlled religious organizations.

In addition, harassment of Catholic communities has also increased. Typical cases involve obstruction of Mass and ongoing land disputes between Catholics and local authorities.

Since 2002, USCIRF has continuously recommended the United States include Vietnam on its CPC list. [16]


1. Khởi tố, bắt tạm giam đối tượng lợi dụng các quyền tự do dân chủ xâm phạm lợi ích của Nhà nước, quyền, lợi ích hợp pháp của tổ chức, cá nhân. (2023, May 18). Công an tỉnh Phú Yên.

2. Hồ Đan. (2023). Tôn giáo tháng 4/2023: Bắt giữ tín đồ Tin Lành, cưỡng bức người H'mong ký cam kết bỏ đạo Dương Văn Mình. Luật Khoa Tạp Chí.

3. Trịnh Hữu Long. (2022, March 29). Tội lợi dụng các quyền tự do dân chủ – một điều luật hoàn toàn thừa thãi. Luật Khoa.

4. Công an mời triệu hai thầy Y Bây Êban và Y Wen Niê. (2023, May 29).

5. Đắk Lắk: Hai thầy truyền đạo và một tín đồ Tin lành bị cưỡng ép lên đồn công an làm việc. (2023, June 1). RFA.

6. Chuyên Trang Văn Hóa Và Đời Sống. (2023, May 17). Cảnh giác với “đại dịch” tà đạo Hội thánh Đức Chúa Trời. Chuyên Trang Văn Hóa Và Đời Sống.

7. Thanh H. (2023, May 15). Cảnh giác "Hội thánh Đức Chúa trời mẹ" lôi kéo người ở Đắk Nông. Báo Đắk Nông Điện Tử.

8. Pv N. (2023, May 15). Tan nát gia đình vì Hội thánh Đức Chúa Trời. BAO DIEN TU VTV.

9. Gpcorp.Vn. (n.d.). Tà đạo ‘Hội thánh Đức Chúa trời’ len lỏi giảng đường đại học.

10. See [5].

11. Pv N. (2023, May 15). Tan nát gia đình vì Hội thánh Đức Chúa Trời. BAO DIEN TU VTV.

12. Vietnam 2022 International Religious Freedom. (2023, May 15). U.S. Department of State.

13. Religious Freedom Designations - Press Statement. (2022, December 2). U.S. Department of State.

14. Báo cáo tự do tôn giáo quốc tế của Hoa Kỳ năm 2022 thiếu khách quan. (2023, May 18). Báo Đại đoàn kết.

15. Annual Report of The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, (2023, April). UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM.

16. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. (2022, February). Country Update: Vietnam.

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