They Cry in Silence Jul/Aug 2002
On April 26, 2002, the government of Vietnam hosted a cultural festival in Bac Ha (in Lao Cai province) to demonstrate “religious freedom” to religious leaders from around the world who appeared on the guest list. The use of festivals and staged, ecumenical lovefest gatherings by tyrannical governments is an old ploy. Unfortunately, many liberal religious leaders are all too willing to swallow the cleverly baited line; and they come away heralding a “revolution in tolerance” as the new fashion in these clearly despotic countries.
A March fact-finding tour by the human rights organization International Christian Concern (ICC) based in Washington, D.C., exposed the hypocrisy of this exercise in deception fostered by the repressive Vietnamese regime. The ICC’s findings were, to say the least, disturbing. Documents that were hand carried out of the country revealed that the government has been glossing over persecution against Christians and intensifying its anti-Christian campaign.
According to the ICC, all tribal groups face opposition from the government. The majority of them have had their properties seized. Following a demonstration by thousands of Christians seeking property rights and freedom to worship, authorities allowed them some latitude. It didn’t last long. Local officials soon came back and arrested many of the people who participated in the demonstrations. Some were sentenced to prison for ten to fifteen years. Others chose to flee the country.
A pastor from the Katu tribe reported that the 450 Christians in his community are forced to meet in small groups because of close scrutiny by the authorities. To avoid detection, they even have resorted to moving their meeting places frequently. In spite of all the precautions they take, a house church was discovered and raided by the police. Christians were forced to give their names and addresses. Consequently, all of their belongings were confiscated. All of the families were also taken in for questioning, including the children. The home where the meeting was held was destroyed.
Pastors are often kidnapped from their homes at night while their families are asleep. These ministers often are not seen or heard from again for months. Their sentences, usually three-year terms, are served at hard labor.
The situation is growing worse in the northern regions of the country. Political leaders there have declared their intent, via radio and television, to eliminate all Christian activity by the end of this year. Any Christians who remain until 2004 will be driven into the jungles. Letters to government officials have brought no relief. Christians, they contend, are “disturbing the social peace.” Many believers now feel their situation in these provinces is hopeless.
We must remember, in spite of the barrage of propaganda coming from official sources in Communist countries, nothing has changed. Their sordid records well document their anti-Christian, anti-American hatred; and the animosity only intensifies after they have won the day in their struggle to oust the West from their countries and cultures. What lives on, however, is their hatred for Christians and everything smacking of the West.
The reasons are simple. While individuals may shift from post to post within these governments, the same individuals—with the same political and religious prejudices—still hold power. Therefore, what seem like changes for the better are almost always cosmetic only and are orchestrated for the outside consumption of the international community.
Oftentimes we Christians, because we are believers, tend to welcome words promising better conditions for our brethren who are anguishing in these places. Too often, unless diligent organizations ferret out the truth, we accept the soothing words; and that’s the end of it. And while we look away, Christians are suffering, bleeding, and dying.
Many serious questions can be raised concerning the evangelical Christian community‘s silence when it comes to the deplorable conditions and suffering of believers in other countries. Some may argue that this silence is simply due to a cultural insulation created in the West by people who have too much material wealth and have succumbed to being “at ease in Zion.” That is most certainly the case of the vast majority of our secular neighbors, even many of our leaders.
It should shame us beyond words to hear of people in Vietnam who have been driven from their homes and are trying to survive in the jungles in such a state of deprivation that some are driven to consider forsaking their faith in order to return to their villages to survive. Some in our part of the world will quickly contend that these people had no genuine faith in the first place. Such debates and arguments beg the issue. The issue is, What are we going to do about those who are driven to such desperation?
Every evangelical Christian should be in contact with responsible human rights groups that are telling the truth about what’s going on in these countries. Otherwise, the wall of silence will remain.
We encourage you to log on to the Web site of International Christian Concern, the organization that was the source of much of the information in this report. Keep up on a regular basis with the country profiles, latest reports from scores of countries, and letters coming from individuals who can be placed on your prayer list. Here is the information you’ll need to do so: Web site: www.persecution.org; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.