Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stand with the Christians of the Cu Hat Church in Vietnam today!

Nearly eight years ago a congregation numbering more than 500 Hmong Christians joined thousands of others fleeing persecution in Vietnam’s northwest provinces and migrated to the Central Highlands. 

For some time the Christians of the Cu Hat Church met in the home of Mr. Giang Van Di. The home was not very suitable for worship. Being a private home, it was filled with chairs, blankets, beds and clothes of the family. Though this house was larger than many, there was just not enough room, even when people sat crammed close together. The many young women who had small children were obliged to stand outside the house and try to participate in worship that way. The blazing sun was a lesser hardship than the torrential rains.

With concern for young mothers and children as the rainy season was approaching, the Christians of Cu Hat earnestly desired to build a chapel that had enough room for their whole congregation to worship under proper shelter.

When they notified local authorities of their aspiration, they were told they would never get permission. It would be useless to even ask. An application to build a chapel would only be considered when their denomination was granted legal recognition.

Their denomination, Vietnam Good News Church, has repeatedly submitted applications to register its congregations. Contrary to Vietnam’s new religion legislation, government officials have simply ignored them.


In September 2008, the Cu Hat Christians, determined to go ahead because of their urgent need, began raising funds. They sent work teams into the forest to cut wood and saw lumber. They purchased red tile for the roof and brought it to the site. They hired some skilled workers and set about to construct a 12-metre by 20-metre chapel in front of Mr. Di’s house.

But before all the walls were even completed, officials ordered them to stop. They ordered Mr. Di to cease building and to tear down what had already been constructed on the charge that the lumber was cut illegally.


The Cu Hat congregation met, prayed, considered and decided that they could not comply. Although virtually all buildings in this area of Vietnam are erected without building permits, local authorities accused the Christians of “illegal construction” and ordered the congregation to “voluntarily” tear it down. On December 2, the district officials made a formal decision to demolish the church within two weeks if the Christians would not do so themselves. 

At 7:00 a.m. on the morning of December 17, a large contingent of government officials, police and demolition workers arrived at the site in 33 buses and trucks with their license plates concealed. Many others came on motor bikes. All the men were disguised, wearing civilian clothes and helmets. Some carried sticks, axes or guns.

The first act of the huge work gang was to take Mr. Di to the chapel and force him to sign a paper agreeing to its demolition. Mr. Di refused. So they grabbed his hand and tried to force his finger onto an ink pad and then onto a document. But he resisted so strongly that they could not force him. Trying another tactic, they then told him if he would sign the document, they would give him a copy and he could use it to complain or sue. But there was no copy to be had, only the original. They further told Mr. Di if he signed, it would benefit him in the future. He replied, “You destroy someone’s house, what benefit is left?” Mr. Di then escaped and ran into his house, fell onto his bed and buried his face in the covers because he could not bear to watch what was about to happen.

Roof of chapel falling to the ground

And with that the large gang began to demolish the chapel. Where hymns had been sung, chainsaws now buzzed and sledges pounded. Wielding electric cattle prods, police beat back hundreds of distraught Christians who rushed to the site to protect the building. Some 40 Christians remained in the chapel to pray. The government cadre ordered them to leave but they refused. One of the cadres grabbed the arms of one of the believers and twisted them behind his back. Four others beat him with sticks. When he collapsed they dragged him out of the building and dumped him on the ground.

Five injured people were taken away in an emergency vehicle authorities had brought to the scene. The injured included a child who suffered a broken arm and a pregnant woman who fainted after being poked in the stomach with an electric cattle prod.

After the workers had loaded the lumber onto their trucks, they emptied sacks of the Christian’s rice paddy on the ground, put the roof tile into the sacks and sped away. In 90 minutes, the destruction was complete.

One Christian asked a cadre, “If you demolished our church because of using illegal lumber, why do you not demolish all the houses built with the same?”

The cadre replied, “If we did that, the people would kill us! This chapel is easier, so we demolished it.” At least this cadre was telling the truth.

Within a few days the Christians dared to build a temporary shelter of bamboo and tin to have a place to worship and celebrate Christmas. At last report, authorities were threatening to tear it down too.

You can get involved in protesting this illegal action by the Vietnamese government!

Download this letter of protest and encourage people to sign it.  Take it to your church or office. Once you have a number of signatures, send it to the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa:

His Excellency Duc Hung Nguyen
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
470 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON
K1N 6M8

In the United States:

His Excellency Le Cong Phung
Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington DC

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