by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – A court in Vietnam has sentenced an evangelical Christian man to 4 1/2 years imprisonment on charges of “secession and incitement” for holding prayer meetings in his home, the Christian Post reports.
Associated with Vietnam’s Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, Nay Y Blang, 48, was arrested on May 18 last year and sentenced by the People’s Court of Phu Yen province on Jan. 26. He was additionally accused of “providing false information about freedom of religious belief, slander, distorting religious policies, and violating the interests of the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” Radio Free Asia reports.
Notably, Blang was denied legal representation. Blang is a member of the Vietnamese Montagnard community, which is predominantly Christian, and which has historically faced hostility from Vietnam’s Buddhist government. His supporters told RFA they believe he is being punished by the authorities for his association with the Central Highlands Evangelical Church of Christ, a congregation which is not recognized by the authorities. “Only people from the government were present, meaning the government can give Blang any sentence they want,” Pastor Aga, the founder of the church, told RFA.
In a statement condemning the sentence, Mervyn Thomas, founder of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said: “The Vietnamese government views the simple act of prayer as a direct threat to their power and legitimacy. No person should fear jail for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief. These recent developments show that the human rights situation in Vietnam continues to deteriorate.”
“We emphasize that this is part of a wider pattern of the targeting of religious and ethnic minorities across Vietnam that is often more severe in rural areas,” Thomas added.
Buddhist-majority Vietnam ranks 35th on the Open Doors World Watch List 2024 of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.
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