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Members of interfaith council detained in Vietnam

Detention part of government policy to 'divide and rule' independent groups who refuse to join state-sanctioned organizations

Members of interfaith council detained in Vietnam

Visiting religious leaders and Hoa Hao followers pray for national prosperity at Nguyen Van Luot on Feb. 13. (Photo curtesy of Father Nguyen Ngoc Thanh) reporter, Ho Chi Minh City

February 16, 2017

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Four members from a Vietnamese group of religious leaders from unregistered faiths were detained at a police station in Dong Thanh commune, Vinh Long province on Feb. 13.

They are Pastor Nguyen Manh Hung, Venerable Thich Khong Tanh of the Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam, Hua Phi, head of Cao Dai, an indigenous faith, and Redemptorist Father Anthony Le Ngoc Thanh.

They are among 27 members of the Interfaith Council of Vietnam, a group of religious leaders from unregistered faiths working together to protect themselves from government persecution.

Father Thanh wrote on his Facebook account on Feb. 15 that, while they were visiting Bui Van Luot, a leader of the Hoa Hao Buddhist sect who lives in the commune, 30 policemen forced entry and checked the personal papers of the four visitors. The four were then hauled off to a police station.

Police separated and questioned the visitors for hours and accused them of causing public disorder but the four men remained silent. After that, they were released and forced to leave the area.

Police also forcibly stopped some Hoa Hao followers from meeting the visiting delegates.

The council members were visiting the Hoa Hao followers to show solidarity and pray for national prosperity on the occasion of the Lunar New Year festival.

Nguyen Bac Truyen, a Hoa Hao activist, told that the communist government's prevention "was to stop unregistered faiths from uniting and fighting for religious freedom; officials apply a policy of divide and rule."

Unregistered religious groups or independent groups are those who refuse to join state-sanctioned groups. They remain faithful to their traditional rites and doctrines and fight against government intervention on religious issues.

As a result, many followers and their leaders have been persecuted, harassed and imprisoned since communists took control of the country in 1975. They are not allowed to gather for prayer, build new temples or give faith education to their followers.

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