Vietnamese authorities demolish Bible School, Mennonite pastor arrested


HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — Vietnamese authorities in Ho Chi Minh City have demolished a Bible school and beaten Nguyen Hong Quang, a Mennonite pastor.

According to several reports, a force of 500 Vietnamese police officers, task-force soldiers and fire brigadiers used bulldozers Dec. 14 to demolish a Mennonite Bible School in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City.

According to Voice of the Martyrs Australia, Quang was one of many whose homes and businesses stood in the way of commercial development by the Vietnamese government. The Mennonites say they've owned the land since 1996.

The Vietnamese government had offered the church one-fourth of the value to put towards the purchase of a similar sized plot of land farther out from the city center. Reports indicate that Quang was protesting this offer and demanding the full price of re-location.

Sources said Quang and his followers did not do anything to disrupt the demolition. They left the premises peacefully and moved to a rented property about 500 meters from the church. However, there they encountered another group of policemen and found the rental property door locked.

After confronting the police, Quang was beaten and arrested. Twenty students from the school were also arrested and interrogated.

Quang, who is also a human rights lawyer, has served as the general secretary of the Mennonite Church in Vietnam. Quang's wife, Le Thi Phu Dung, is the current president.

Quang has been jailed three times and was last imprisoned in 2004 along with five other leaders. They were known as the "Mennonite Six." Quang had been accused of practicing non-sanctioned religion.

In July 2005, Vietnamese government officials destroyed the home of Quang, while he was in detention, including the place where his congregation held worship services.

While the Vietnam Mennonite Church finally gained official recognition by the government in 2007, Quang's District 2 congregation could not be included because of its history with the authorities.

After interrogation the Bible school students who were arrested with Quang were released and escorted back to their provinces by specially drafted police. Quang was also released and appears to be in good health.

"There was great chaos when the bulldozers came to demolish the church building. People scattered everywhere. Members of the Civil Defense and Night Watchman were seen watching over the demolition," according to Voice of the Martyrs Australia.

The attack has followed a series of critical reports about Pastor Quang that appeared in a government-owned newspaper in September according to Release. Leaders and Bible college students associated with Pastor Quang have come under intense pressure from officials who do not recognize them as a part of the official Mennonite church.

Side note: Those who have captured the event with their cell phone cameras risked arrest and imprisonment, but they wanted the world to see the Vietnamese government's action against the Mennonites of District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.

addthis_pub="christianexaminer"; addthis_logo = ? logos/CElogo_222.jpg ?; addthis_header_color = "#33569b"; addthis_header_background = "#e4e4e5" addthis_brand = "ChristianExaminer"; addthis_options = ?email, favorites, digg, delicious, myspace, google, facebook, reddit, live, more'; addthis_language = "en";