Here is another text I have just received from my Vietnamese friend, dissident Đoàn Thanh Liêm.
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My Two Passions in Life
I used to tell my friends: “I have only two simple passions in life, that’s books and friends.” Now, let me elaborate on that.
1 – My grandpa was a teacher of Chinese characters in the early 20th century. He passed away when I was only 6 years old, and I never had the chance to learn Chinese from him. Instead, I studied French, Latin and English as foreign languages. As a young boy from a peasant family in the rural area of North Vietnam, I was much encouraged by elders to pursue studies consistently and for as long as possible. They used to remind me of this saying: “Biển học mênh mông” (The learning is like a limitless ocean). Unfortunately, due to the war erupting at the end of 1946, my schooling was interrupted as I moved around at least three different localities in the Red River Delta. I only started attending regular classes in the 1950’s and finally completed high school in Hanoi during June 1954. Continue reading “Đoàn Thanh Liêm – My Two Passions in Life”
By profession, I am a lawyer, a jurist. But as a volunteer, I’ve spent much of my time in social work in Vietnam during the war and in human rights action at the time being in the United States.
In the mid-1960’s as the war escalated, a lot of people from the insecure countryside flocked into the outskirts of the capital city of Saigon. They lived in slum areas in miserable conditions without basic facilities such as clean water, toilet, electricity or medical care etc…, let alone school for their children.
That is why a group of young urban folks like us got together to start an action program called “The Saigon District 8 Development Project” in 1965 to help these war victims help themselves in the most underpriviledged area of Saigon. The youngest volunteers were then about 20 years old and the eldest about 30.
To begin with, we submitted a request to the government asking to be allowed to set up a community development program for the benefit of the local people in the slums – most of whom are war victims coming from the adjoining countryside. Thereupon, the Prime Minister agreed to our proposal and even provided us with a little fund for the operation of the program. And right away, by mid-August 1965, we came to district 8 and wholeheartedly launched ourselves into the long term social action aiming at serving the people in the community. Details of the running of this cooperation between us the volunteers and the administration can be summarised as follows:
I – The key success to the experience : “The Three With Approach”
As volunteers, the only thing we had in common that is the high morale of deeply motivated and dedicated young people. But to put it frankly, we were all naïve and inexperienced facing the enormously hard problems of poverty, insalubrity and even illiteracy in the area. With sheer perseverance, we had to practice the “Three With Approach” (Tam Cùng) – that’s to Live With, to Eat With and to Work With the local population – thus sharing with them all hardships in their daily life.
As time went by, we were gradually seen and accepted with sympathy by the local residents as “good guys’, “well educated folks”. And that favorable attitude opened up to the sincere and close cooperation between the community and our group of volunteers all coming from outside of the locality.
ANALYSIS: The ‘Great National Unity’ requires a great big bureaucracy
The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is drafting a “Law on Belief and Religion,” for passage in the National Assembly in 2016, and possibly this year. It is almost inevitable the new law will disappoint proponents of universal human rights.(1)
Diverse religions and religious practices flourish in communist Vietnam. Religious believers far outnumber the government figures on the number of people who practice religious faith. Yet Vietnam maintains restrictive and controlling managerial policies, some quite harsh, especially toward religions that are feared to have political influence, including the Catholic and Evangelical Christian traditions, mistakenly still deemed Western.
A deep, politically-constructed narrative called Dai Doan Ket, or the Great National Unity, appears to be the standard against which religions are tolerated and deemed to be sufficiently conformed to Vietnamese tradition and culture. Dai Doan Ket, nebulous though it may be, tries to define a national identity, a common culture and even a spiritual bond. Rights are relativized in reference to support for the Dai Doan Ket. Some are hopeful that globalization will dilute DDK thinking. (2) Continue reading “World Watch Monitor – Vietnam’s Religion Law”
Religion-law reforms awaited at time of ‘remarkable spike in attacks’ on Christians
As Vietnam celebrates 40 years since the end of what is commonly known elsewhere as the ‘Vietnam War’, its government faces accusations of failing to ensure the rights of its citizens to religious freedom.
“In Vietnam, we still have a government that shows two faces – the friendly and welcoming face on one side and the oppressive face on the other.”
These words, attributed by Open Doors to a Vietnamese Christian whose name was withheld, provide an insight into a country which, on the one hand, is reportedly close to making positive reforms to its laws on religious practice, but on the other is accused by the UN of “gross violation” of religious freedom “in the face of constant surveillance, intimidation, harassment and persecution”.
Where Vietnam is concerned, religious freedom is rarely black and white.
RODUCED BY: Denise Lodde
Vietnam Dangerous Faith Part 1 ; Vietnam is one of South East Asia’s most popular tourist destinations—known for its beauty, beaches and hospitality. Unfortunately, for those who live there it’s not such a sunny picture. Nor is the communicant one party state hospitable to certain freedoms –especially religious freedom. Denise Lodde recently traveled with a team from Voice of the Martyrs to uncover what is happening to Christians in this country. Here is part one of her three part one of her three part series Vietnam: Dangerous Faith ; FEATURED IN REPORT: Pastor Quang, Vietnamese Mennonite Pastor and Human Rights Activist ; Todd Nettleton, representative from Voice of the Martyrs U.S ; Greg Musselman, representative of Voice of the Martyrs Canada. Continue reading “Persecution of the Church in Communist Vietnam”
As I have written HERE, I have met Mennonite Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang during my second visit to Saigon, Vietnam, in 2005. He reminded me a lot of Pastor Pavel Nicolescu, leand of ALRC (the Romanian Committee for the Defence of the Freedom of Religion and Conscience), whom I knew in Romania, in the seventies.
Voice of the Martyrs Canada has just published a news item on new persecution Pastor Quang and his family and congregations are submitted to by the brutal communist regime in Vietnam.
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Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and his son Nguyen Quang Trieu were recently attacked by a group of seven young men while uniformed police looked on and did nothing to prevent the assault from happening. An additional 20 thugs joined the original attackers in the beating which took place at the church of the victimized Christians. Two other pastors tried to intervene by helping the victims but were also hurt in the process. Pastor Quang suffered several injuries, including a broken finger, a cut eyelid, as well as wounds to his face. His son also sustained various injuries. Continue reading “Pastor Quang and His Son Brutally Attacked Again in Vietnam”
Celebrating the 60 th Anniversary of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In view of commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR : 1948-2008), the United Nations has adopted this motto “Justice and Dignity for All of us” as the theme to launch worldwide action for the promotion and protection of Human Rights in the year 2008.
As we all have known it, at the proclaiming of the UDHR in Paris on Decenber 10, 1948, Mrs Eleanor Roosevelt, the prestigious American First Lady had unequivocally qualified it as “the Magna Carta for all mankind”. And it took almost 30 years later for the UN to promulgate in 1976 “The International Bill of Human Rights” that consists of the UDHR and two International Covenants, one on “Economic,Social, and Cultural Rights” and another on “Civil and Political Rights”. This Bill is the first universal document ever attained by mankind all over our planet guaranteeing the respect of human rights and dignity. It really gives us hope for a more peaceful and compassionate world that is worthy of the supreme value of human being.
And in recent thirty years, thousands of Human Rights Advocacy organisations have boomed everywhere in the world to serve as an valuable counterpart/counterbalance in demanding national/local governments to respect human rights of their own citizen. Remarkably such non-governmental organisations as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), Green Peace (GP) etc…have served as solid components for the emerging “Global Civil Society” that eventually could help deal better with complex situation in our present day world, for the benefit of the most underpriviledged, downtrodden people under whatever politically oppressive environment in any particular country. Continue reading “Doan Thanh Liem – Justice and Dignity for All of Us”
In a narrowest sense, the culture of a people can be defined as the way this people live, grow, expand and survive from generation to generation throughout their long history. Thus we can say that their culture is the national patrimony that has been constantly accumulated since the foundation of the nation-state.
Friends of mine, be ready
It’s now time for us
To openly and directly
Launch ourselves into the battle
We ask for
Not only food and clothes
But also Dignity and Love.
Against the Brutal Tyranny
We fight, equipped with
And Non-Violence. Continue reading “Doan Thanh Liem – Poems from Prison – 1”
Human endurance has its own limits. I suffered terribly in the first two years in jail. I fell into despair. I fell hopeless and helpless. When I was alone in my dark cell, I could rarely sleep soundly. I did not sense any joy whatever in the world. That really was the darkest time of my life.
But gradually I have recovered from this internal crisis, thanks to some inmates who are also political prisoners. I regained my enthusiasm for social service, making some plans for my future action. As my age advances, I will mainly devote my efforts to sociocultural rather than political activities. Certainly I could act as an adviser and supporter to young activists in the political sphere, but personally I like to keep a low profile in public life. Continue reading “Doan Thanh Liem – Reflections on My Days in Jail”
Dozens injured, as police use tear gas, batons and police dogs
Around 40 people have been injured in Vietnam during a protest against the 3-month detention of two Catholics on minor charges.
The protest on Sept. 4 in Nghi Phuong, south of Hanoi, was a response to the police refusal to release Nguyen Van Hai, 43, and Ngo Van Khoi, 53, who were arrested May 22 for “disturbing the public order”.
Protesters claimed the police had promised the duo’s release by Sept. 4, although police later denied this claim. Tear gas, batons and police dogs were used to disperse protests. Around 15 protesters were arrested.
On Jan. 1, Vietnam updated its rules for enforcing its highest law regarding religion. Known as the Decree on Religion 92/2012 ND-CP, or simply ND-92, the new decree is meant to clarify rules written in 2005.
On close inspection, ND-92 does appear to clarify one thing: Vietnam’s intent to control the spread of religion, especially Christianity.
That’s according to a veteran missionary to Vietnam and acknowledged authority on Vietnamese Protestant Christianity.
He has served as an advocate for persecuted Christians in Vietnam since it was reunited under communism in 1975. World Watch Monitor asked him to take a close look at the new religion decree. Because he travels extensively throughout Vietnam, we are not publishing his name. Here are his findings. Continue reading “World Watch Monitor – Vietnam’s New Decree on Religion”
Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister
The report below was translated from Vietnamese, from an article published in the Communist press in Vietnam. Please do not mind the imperfect translation. THose living under persecution do not have the luxury of paying for perfect translations.
I hope this text will remind those who have lived under communism the ‘blessings’ God have saved us from.
Y Wo Nie, a Vietnamese pastor who was arrested in August 2004, has been released from prison. Y Wo Nie was given a nine-year prison sentence for leading a demonstration demanding more religious freedom and the release of property confiscated by the Vietnamese government. He was released in December 2011. At last report, he had been spending time with his family and was planning to have a medical check-up to assess his health after more than seven years in prison. Continue reading “Pastor released from prison in Vietnam”
Pe prietenul meu R.R. [din ratiuni de securitate nu va pot da numele lui real] l-am intilnit pentru prima data in urma cu mai multi ani in Thailanda, in cursul seminarului meu despre o perspectiva crestina asupra comunismului si a postcomunismului. El este unul dintre expertii crestini cei mai cunoscuti in problemele bisericii din Vietnam sub comunism.
L-am intilnit apoi din nou in octombrie anul trecut in Africa de sud, la congresul miscarii Lausanne. El mi-a povestit atunci, intrigat si bucuros in acelasi timp, ca, dupa ce fusese pus pe lista neagra de catre autoritatile vietnameze, dintr-o data a fost invitat de autoritatile comuniste la o masa rotunda foarte mediatizata legata de societatea civila si protestantism in acea tara.
Five years ago I taught in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) a series of seminars about a Christian perspective on communism and post-communism. During the last evening, two men entered the room where we had to hide from the communist authorities for discussing this delicate topc. After a while they started commenting in Vietnamese in a small voice. During the break I have asked my guest who were they and what were they saying.
I was told they were Pastor Truong, who had been condemned to a few years of emprisonment in a psychiatric prison, and Pastor Quang, a famous Mennonite defender of the rights of Christians, who, like the other leader, had just been freed from prison. What they were saying to their colleagues was something like: ‘Listen to this man. he has been where we are now and knows what he is talking about. This is what we were trying to tell you and you were not listening’. Continue reading “Rev. Nguyen Hong Quang Arrested Again in Saigon, Vietnam – NEW UPDATE”
I have just received the English translation of a poem, from a dear friend who has a special heart for Vietnam. The author, Le Thi Cong Nhan, who is 30 years old, is an uncompromising activist and Christian lawyer. She was imprisoned in Vietnam from 2007 to 2010 for trying to help an independent labor union to organize. As ir is obvious from this text, she did not lose her spirit!
You may find HERE my previous post on her release from prison.
Her poem reflects the same longing for freedom, that many of us had, while living under communist oppression. At the same time, it expresses the same naive hope that when freedom comes everything will be different, kind of like overnight.
We all know now, here in the post-communist world, that such a hope is unrealistic and may lend us to much disappointment when faced with the grim reality of the ambiguous nature of freedom.
We know now (but had no idea at the time, although we should have known better) that we may need to spend the proverbial ’40 years in the desert’, before any hope of normality becomes reality). Yet, when under pressure, one can only hope the best for the future.
Apparent central government crackdown puts halt to Yuletide celebrations in five areas.
HANOI, Vietnam, December 20 (CDN) — In what appeared to be part of a central government crackdown on Protestant Christianity in Vietnam, hundreds of Christians from 10 northern provinces were locked out of a Christmas celebration that was supposed to take place here yesterday.
The throngs who arrived at the National Convention Center (NCC) in the Tu Kiem district of Hanoi for the Christmas event found the doors locked and a phalanx of police trying to send them away, sources said. Deeply disappointed, some of the Christians began singing and praying in the square in front to the center, they said. Continue reading “Vietnamese Communists Fear Christmas – UPDATE”
HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam, November 30 (CDN) — Two Christian evangelists, Ksor Y Du, 47, and Kpa Y Co, 30, were sentenced this month to six and four years in prison respectively for “undermining national unity.”
Ksor and Kpa, of the Vietnam Good News Mission (VGNM) church, received the harsh sentences on Nov. 15. House arrest of four and two years respectively also was added to the sentences, according to church sources and Vietnam’s Phap Luat (Law) newspaper. Both evangelists, who are of the Ede minority, live in Song Hinh district of Phu Yen Province, where there are some 20 VGNM congregations.
Ksor was one of many thousands of ethnic minority people in Vietnam’s Central Highland that participated in demonstrations in 2004 against religious oppression and illegal confiscation of their traditional lands. Many of the demonstrators were Christians. Along with hundreds of others, he was caught trying to flee to Cambodia following the harsh military crackdown after the demonstrations. He spent four years in prison and another year under house arrest. Continue reading “Two Evangelists in Vietnam Sentenced to Prison for ‘Undermining National Unity’”
My friend Alex Nadaban published recently on his blog the story of Hugh C. Thompson, Jr., the courageous American soldier who took a great risk in order to confront and put an end to the crimes committed by American soldiers at My Lai, in Vietnam on 16 March 1968. You may find the story HERE.
DM– Înainte de a trece la Vietnam, mai am o singură întrebare. Spune-ne te rog câte ceva din parcursul tău profesional. Ştiu că ai început ca inginer, dar acum lucrezi în cu totul alt domeniu.
RM – E un fel de a spune că am început ca inginer. Am absolvit, asemenea multor altora din generaţia mea, o facultate de inginerie. De fapt nu am lucrat niciodată ca inginer, pentru că, la absolvirea facultăţii în 1987, aşteptam naşterea celui de-al doilea copil al nostru astfel încât am rămas acasă pentru creşterea copiilor. Revoluţia avea să schimbe multe în viaţa noastră pentru că, efectiv peste noapte, s-au deschis alte noi orizonturi, la care nu putusem visa înainte şi am avut curajul să păşim înspre ele. Continue reading “Interviu cu Rodica Mocan – despre Vietnam şi alte cele – 2”
Danut Manastireanu (DM)– Rodica, înainte de a discuta despre tema acestui interviu, ultima ta călătorie în Vietnam, aş vrea să te rog să ne spui câte ceva despre tine şi familia ta.
Rodica Mocan (RM) – Sunt mulţi ani de când, cu mândrie, mă prezint ca fiind soţia lui Liviu Mocan, sculptor. Totuşi, cei care mă cunosc, nu se plâng că nu as avea propria personalitate – mai degrabă, dimpotrivă! Avem trei copii minunaţi şi, de curând, o nora pe măsură. Emma, fiica noastră este studentă în ultimul an într-un program de master în studii de teatru şi film, scrie spumos (de altfel chiar şi tu i-ai promovat Balta de idei, blogul ei de pe blogspot) şi trăieşte frumos. Paul, proaspăt căsătorit cu Ligia, munceşte din greu în propria firma de sisteme de sunet, în timp ce îşi finalizează studiile de business. David este elev în clasa V-a la Liceul de muzica, studiază cornul, deşi îl pasionează Michael Jackson şi jazzul. Continue reading “Interviu cu Rodica Mocan – despre Vietnam şi alte cele – 1”
…the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jn. 1:4
This truth was no more apparent than in communist Vietnam this Christmas past! Some of my students led the charge below.
For the last two years authorities in Vietnam surprisingly allowed churches to hold some large public Christmas and Easter celebrations. When these were parlayed into effective evangelistic events, the authorities developed second thoughts. Christians, on the other hand, wanted bigger events. In Saigon they asked for the use of a 30,000-seat stadium. This was denied; a 3,000 seat venue a distance from the city was offered instead. Leaders declined this and were verbally promised a venue for 12,000. But the government refused to give written permission. Continue reading “Christmas Stories from Vietnam”
Pentru a onora celebrarea a 20 de ani de la caderea zidului Berlinului, voi incepe sa public, incepind cu ziua de miine, textul meu intitulat Din robie, in pustie, care prezinta o perspectiva crestina asupra comunismului si a postcomunismului.
Dincolo de Introducere, textul este impartit in trei parti: 1. Prezentarea comunismului – privit prin prisma metaforei robiei egiptene; 2. Pregatirea pentru libertate – privita in lumina metaforei Exodului; si 3. Examinarea postcomunismului – privit prin intermediul metaforei celor 40 de ani in pustie. Textul se incheie cu o serie de Studii de caz, lcu privire la unele dintre tarile in care am facut aceasta prezentare.