Remarks before the Vietnam Congressional Caucus
Reverend Nguyen Manh Hung
US Capitol Building
June 11, 2015Greetings,
I am a pastor of the Mennonite church and member of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam. I am here today because my parishioners and supporters have been persecuted for expressing their faith.
The experiences of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam serve as evidence of the Vietnamese Government’s repression of religious groups that do not accept State interference in religious activities. We have 100 members and provide 5 classes for poor children. Because the Vietnamese Communist Party does not want us to do charity work, they seized our land, forcing us to resort to setting up our place of worship at an abandoned barn.
Over the past 8 years, since moving to the barn, the Government of Vietnam has continually looked for ways to get rid of us. On one occasion, the Interfaith Council of Vietnam was organizing a ceremony and I was told that the security police had come to investigate. When I came downstairs to see what was going on, plainclothes police came up, grabbed my neck, and choked me down to the floor as the security police stepped over my body to enter the ceremony room and disband the event. On another occasion, plainclothes police came to my house and destroyed belongings the Interfaith Council uses to organize ceremonies and threatened to kill me, my wife, and my son.
They brutalize our parishioners, including pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and have manipulated the law to imprison religious leaders such as father Nguyen Van Ly, pastor Duong Kim Khai, and pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh. In spite of these acts of terrorism on our spirits as well as our well beings, we keep moving forward.
The most pressing issues for those in our religious community are as follows:
- Cao Dai and Hoa Hao Buddhist groups experienced landgrabs at religious sites such as Tuy An in Phu Yen, barring members from participating in a large ceremony.
- The Unified Buddhist Church was barred from doing charity work and was told of intention to destroy the Lien Tri temple and seize their land. Security police informed members that they would seize the Lien Tri temple after Vietnam is granted TPP membership.
- Catholic groups were banned from allowing bishop Hoang Duc Oanh consecrate seminarians and recently they have prepared to seize 22 churches of ethnic minorities in Gia Lai, Kontum.
Another concern of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam is Vietnamese Government’s Draft law on religion, which is an attempt to tighten control over religion and stifle religious freedom.
In order to address these issues, 5 major religious groups have come together to form the Interfaith Council of Vietnam. With our collective voice, we speak up for religious freedom, voices of conscience, and humanitarian efforts.
On the heels of the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between US and the Vietnam, as well as General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to the US, another significant event for US-Vietnam relations, I hope the members of the US Government will:
- Release of prisoners of conscience, especially in religious prisoners as Father Nguyen Van Ly Duong Kim Khai MS and MS Nguyen Cong Chinh.
- Recommend the Vietnamese government not to enact their Draft Law on religion.
Thank you for your time.