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PRESS RELEASE
House Church Faces Continued Harrassment
Mennonite World Conference
29-Jan-2007
The Mennonite house church in Ho Chi Minh's District 2 continues to meet in the home of Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang after the recent third dismantling of part of the building in the last eighteen months. Thirty to forty people meet each Sunday.

On Tuesday morning, January 9, when a group of believers were gathered for prayer, a large force sent by the precinct officials came to the house and tore out most of the improvements done in the house renovation this past summer. Though Quang argued that their actions were illegal, the authorities arrested and held 17 persons for several hours until completing their work. The church members were then all released and no charges were filed.

This confrontation is the latest incident in a long tug-of-war between this local congregation and the local precinct.

In July, 2004, shortly after Pastor Quang and five others were arrested, authorities tore down a few meters at the end of the building which they claimed was built beyond their property. Temporary repairs were then made. After an international gift was offered to make permanent repairs, Quang submitted a request to repair and upgrade the building. The precinct authorities in May, 2006 issued a building permit to repair the building, but stipulated that no additional alterations were to be made.

When it became evident that Quang was raising the roof and making a new upstairs loft, local authorities forcibly tore down some of this construction and confiscated the building materials. However, the city officials ordered the precinct to return the materials, and the renovations continued. In September the chairman of the precinct government issued a statement to Quang indicating that he had made renovations not authorized by the building permit.

On January 2 the precinct chairman, Nguyen Van Hai, ordered that the "illegal" renovations be removed, and later asked to meet to discuss the matter with Pastor Quang. Quang went away for some oversight responsibilities with other pastors, and did not meet with Mr. Hai. On January 5 the chairman issued an order stating that the authorities would come on January 9 to remove the parts of the building they claimed were built illegally.

Quang maintains that the building was first erected by a previous owner in 1986, and that 90% of the buildings in that area were built without building permits. He maintains that the authorities selectively enforce newly enacted zoning laws to restrict the free association of religious groups, and particularly the Mennonite group that Quang leads.

Some observers note that the local authorities did not move against the church last summer while Vietnam was asking to be removed from the US State Department list of "countries of particular concern" due to religious liberty and human rights issues, and because Vietnam was seeking membership in the World Trade Organization. Now that Vietnam has achieved these aims, it appears that authorities have fewer inhibitions in restricting religious groups.

Others, citing growing freedom of Christian house churches to register their meeting places, observe that Quang might be specifically targeted due to his outspoken criticism of the government's policies concerning religious groups. In April he identified with a group calling for an end to the sole political leadership of the Vietnam Communist Party.

Mennonite World Conference asks the worldwide church to pray for the churches and the authorities in Vietnam.

- Vietnamese Ministries

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Mennonite World Conference is a communion (Koinonia) of Anabaptist-related churches linked to one another in a worldwide community of faith for fellowship, worship, service, and witness.