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PRESS RELEASE
PART OF VIETNAM MENNONITE CHURCH CENTER TORN DOWN
Mennonite World Conference
23-Jul-2005
HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM - Sledge hammers and saws ripped into the rear of the Mennonite center in District 2 of Ho Chi Minh City the morning of July 19. By noon the wreckers were gone, leaving a pile of rubble behind.

With government video cameras rolling, 70 government officials and hired hands demolished an 8- by 5-meter rear portion of the 1999 two-story home of the Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang family, including four meters of the room where the Mennonite Church of Vietnam holds weekly worship services.

In an interview later in the day, Le Thi Phu Dung, Quang's wife, said the local authorities entered the house, read the order, then forced students
living there to go out on the street. They took her and the two youngest children to the loft to observe their demolition plans.

Noticing a chalk line inside the house marking an additional four meters beyond the previous determination, she asked: "Why are you taking eight
meters?" The men said matter-of-factly that this was the decision.

The initial order to remove part of the building dated from 2002. "Why didn't you come then?" asked Mrs. Quang. "Do you now come to oppress me
because I am alone without my husband?"

Those doing the demolition replied, "Please sympathize with us; we are only hired hands doing this because we need food on our tables. We don't want to destroy the church and we will be very careful not to destroy the church's property."

Quang, general secretary of Vietnam Mennonite Church, was arrested in June 2004 following a March incident and charged with interfering with persons carrying out official duties. He and five others were convicted in November, and Quang was sentenced to three years imprisonment. He is now in a prison in Dak Lak province, several hundred kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City.

When Pastor Quang was arrested, local authorities ordered that all activities at the center cease. The church insists that Vietnamese laws permit them to meet, so members continued to do so in spite of continued actions against them.

In January Mrs. Quang received an order to dismantle the four-meter rear addition to the building which the District 2 authorities claimed Quang had
built illegally in 2002. She and other church leaders appealed, but the District 2 People's Committee determined that this section had to be
voluntarily dismantled by April 11. Mrs. Quang and the church did not comply. In June, the authorities said that if the addition was not removed
by the end of the month they would remove it in July.

The workers made temporary repairs to the exposed area of the house so the family can continue to live there. However, Mrs. Quang is concerned that the loft may be unstable since a support beam was removed.

When the interviewer asked Mrs. Quang about her husband, she replied, "Two weeks ago he was still imprisoned there, and today he says he went out to work, sitting at some machine selling cashews. He said it is hard to do attentive work like this, because he has rheumatism and headaches."

Never sorry for herself, Mrs. Quang remarked: "In Vietnam is it not only to our family that these kinds of things happen. Many people suffer injustice.
For my family, it's because of my husband. I frankly told that to the officials."

The Vietnam Mennonite Church experienced a schism in late 2004, and the two groups have not yet found a way to reunite. In June the largest group chose Mrs. Quang to serve as president.

Mrs. Quang asked people to raise their voices concerning these developments. "My family as well as our church wants only one thing - for our church truly to meet in freedom, not on the sly. When even a dozen persons now meet, we are pursued, chased, and cited."

Other church leaders ask that people send cards or letters of encouragement and support to Mrs. Quang (address available from MWC).

Mennonite World Conference release by Vietnamese Ministries