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hall of shame 2011 the world’s 11 worst persecutors of christians


2011 Hall of Shame

(for year 2010)

Introduction

International Christian Concern (ICC) exists to serve the worldwide persecuted Church with effective advocacy, awareness, and assistance. The 2011’s Top 11 Hall of Shame report is ICC’s ranking of the globe’s top persecutors by country. In this annual report, we seek to direct attention to the plight of persecuted Christians and to publicly condemn their perpetrators. ICC analyzes the religious condition in each country and presents a recent testimony of a persecuted Christian. Persecution of Christians is a common occurrence throughout the world, but it is rarely reported by the mainstream media. Due to their faith, Christians endure harassment, discrimination, deportation, imprisonment, rape, torture, murder and other forms of persecution. While this trend of Christian persecution has steadily declined in Communist and former Communist countries (North Korea and China being the exceptions), there continues to be a significant increase of persecution in Islamic countries. Please note that undertaking the creation of a report such as this does not come without great difficulty. It is impossible to fully determine the severity of Christian suffering throughout the world, and it is, in the end, rather arbitrary to rank the persecution of one group of people over another. For that reason, we did not rate countries on a 1 to 11 scale, but rather listed the greatest persecutors in no particular order. The Hall of Shame is open for debate and is meant as a rough guide rather than the final word on the state of Christian persecution. However, ICC has made every attempt to release a report that is accurate and fair to all persecuted Christians, based upon hundreds of news sources and ICC in-country representatives. Although countries such as Mauritania, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and the Maldives have been omitted from this year’s list of top persecutors, ICC continues to monitor the severe persecution faced by Christians within their borders. However, after review, you will understand why each country listed belongs in 2011’s Hall of Shame. Finally, although we have not included Saudi Arabia in our report this year, we would give it an asterisk. While there have been few reported incidents of persecution against Christians in Saudi Arabia in 2010, there is absolutely no religious freedom in the country. This reason alone, however, does not qualify Saudi Arabia to be a Hall of Shame recipient, as other religiously oppressed countries, such as Afghanistan, Libya and Burma, did not make the list. What qualifies Saudi Arabia is its massive role in financing the worldwide expansion of virulent Wahabbi Islam as well as external terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. There are untold numbers of Christians (and other innocents) that have been killed as a direct consequence of Saudi Arabia’s efforts. In fact, James Woolsey, ex-director of the CIA, in an interview with ICC’s president, Jeff King, said there is no substantial persecution.org|icc@persecution.org|1‐800‐422‐5441| ICC’s 2011 Hall of Shame: Page | 1    


difference between Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. The only real difference is in regard to tactics and control. Within Saudi borders, the government denies recognition or protection of any religion other than Sunni Islam. Not one public church building exists in the country, and Christians are forced to worship underground.  

For interviews, further information, or questions, you may contact us at icc@persecution.org or call 1-800-422-5541. Sincerely, Jeff King President International Christian Concern

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Letter from the President ..........................................................................................................................1‐2 Table of Contents.......................................................................................................................................... 3 Iraq ................................................................................................................................................................ 4 Iran ................................................................................................................................................................ 6 Egypt ............................................................................................................................................................. 7 Nigeria........................................................................................................................................................... 9 Eritrea.......................................................................................................................................................... 10  Somalia........................................................................................................................................................ 11 India ............................................................................................................................................................ 13 Pakistan....................................................................................................................................................... 14 North Korea................................................................................................................................................. 15 China ........................................................................................................................................................... 16 Vietnam....................................................................................................................................................... 17

           

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Overview: While Iraq was not listed in 2010’s Hall of Shame, attacks against Christians rose at an alarming rate and were significant enough to make their mark in 2011’s report. On October 31, Islamic militants linked to Al-Qaeda took a Catholic congregation hostage for more than four hours before Iraqi security intervened. In the end, two priests and more than 50 worshippers were killed in what was the largest massacre of Christians since the Iraq war began in 2003. Soon after, Al-Qaeda declared Christians as “legitimate targets,” and attacks against Christians have escalated ever since. On November 10, thirteen bomb raids on Christian homes in Baghdad killed six. On November 16, gunmen burst into a Christian home in northern Iraq and murdered two men in their living room. On November 17, a bomb was intentionally wired in a Christian’s vehicle in Mosul, killing a Christian man and his 6-year-old daughter. On November 22, militants shot two Christian brothers dead inside their vehicle workshop in Mosul. That same day, an elderly Christian woman was found strangled in her home. On December 5, gunmen murdered an elderly couple in their Baghdad home during the night. And the list goes on. As religious divisions in Iraq broaden, and minorities are maneuvered like political pawns, Iraqi Christians face the reality that they have been deserted – left vulnerable and defenseless by those authorized to protect them, and not permitted to raise their voices loud enough to be heard.  Since the war’s beginning in 2003, three quarters of Baghdad’s Christians have fled the city. Nearly half of all Iraq’s Christians have left the country completely, resulting in the largest exodus of Christians in modern times. Without security or employment, most have no desire to return.

Their stories: Jowaneh Benjamin, an Assyrian Christian from Baghdad, lost nearly everything in the Iraq war. Driving home from work one evening, Jowaneh’s daughters Ebtisam and Enas were ambushed by Muslim militants. The young women were targeted because they were Christian and worked for a U.S. contractor. One was yanked onto the street and shot eleven times. The other was murdered in the backseat. The grief was unbearable for Jowaneh. “I wish I had died and not my daughters… It should have been me… It should have been me...” Jowaneh’s husband died a few days later from a broken heart over his daughters’ deaths.

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Not long after, another daughter was kidnapped by militants and found murdered in a Baghdad alleyway. Jowaneh soon decided it was no longer safe to live in her homeland. She took her remaining daughter Mariam and fled to a refugee camp in Syria. After two long years as refugees in Syria, northern Iraq and Turkey, Jowaneh and Mariam were finally granted immigration to the United States. They now live in Chicago.                                    

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Overview: In 2010, Iran remained among the top persecutors as Iranian Christians endured constant threats of discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and even execution by the Iranian government. There were more than 40 reported arrests – and approximately 400 unreported arrests – of Christians in 2010, including nine from Isfahan on February 2 and nine more in Hamedan on September 10. In late May, Iranian media reported that hundreds of Bibles coming from Azerbaijan had been burned in the border town of Sardasht. In an October speech in Qom, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shocked some house church leaders by publicly warning against the “network of house churches” that “threaten Islamic faith and deceive young Muslims.” On a more positive note, on May 23, 2010 Maryam and Marzieh – who were arrested in 2009 and kept in solitary confinement while enduring severe interrogations – were acquitted of all charges. While most Christians who are arrested are eventually released, they remain under close surveillance by Iranian security forces. Most Christians are forced to worship in secret to avoid charges of apostasy, a crime punishable by death in Iran.

Their Stories: Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a church leader in Rasht, Iran, was arrested on October 13, 2009 for questioning the Islamic education practice of Christian students – including his own children – to be required to read the Quran in school. In late October, Pastor Youcef received notification that he would be executed on charges of apostasy, or conversion from Islam to Christianity. His execution, initially scheduled for October 24th, was postponed by security forces in hopes that Pastor Youcef would renounce his faith and return to Islam. In a letter to the international Christian community, Pastor Youcef took courage and consoled believers around the world: “What we are bearing today is a difficult but not unbearable situation because He has not tested us more than our faith can endure… We must consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to His name.”  

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Overview: While Egypt escaped being included in the Hall of Shame in 2010, escalating atrocities committed against the Arab world’s largest Christian minority forced us to include Egypt in this year’s report. On January 6th, six young Copts were shot dead when leaving Christmas Eve mass in Naga Hammadi in Upper Egypt. To date, the perpetrators have not been sentenced. The court’s delay in reaching a verdict has been standard practice where perpetrators have not been brought to justice after committing violent acts against Christians. In another example, four Muslim men were acquitted in February for the murder of a Coptic Christian in Dairout. Not only are Coptic Christians given few legal rights, but court officials and police often take the side of their Muslim brother and sometimes rule according to Islamic Law (Sharia). In September, anti-Christian passion and paranoia – inflamed by Islamic media propaganda – reached its height when Al Jazeera aired an interview of a prominent Egyptian Muslim scholar accusing Copts of stockpiling weapons in monasteries imported from Israel and “preparing to wage war on Muslims.” To make matters worse, rumors were spread by Islamists that the wives of two Coptic priests who had allegedly converted to Islam were kidnapped and tortured by the Coptic Church in an effort to reconvert them to Christianity. Further inquiry proved the rumors baseless, but not before mass demonstrations of Muslims – some numbering in the thousands – took to the streets promising Copts a “bloodbath.” The attack on Coptic protesters in Talbiya cap off one of Egypt’s worst years of persecution in recent memory. On November 24th, Egyptian security was dispatched to halt the construction of a church. The police opened fire on Coptic protestors with live ammunition and hailed bricks on the crowd from a bridge. Two Copts were killed and hundreds were arrested, including minors. More than 30 children were injured in the incident. The Talbiya attack was unprecedented as it was not carried out by Islamic mob violence, but was authorized by branches of the Egyptian government and executed by Egyptian security forces. Anti-Christian persecution reached a new level as Copts were not merely discriminated against, but were targeted and murdered by their own government.

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Christians in Egypt are also confronted with broader challenges which are not unique to 2010 alone but have existed for years. Muslim converts to Christianity face difficulty in changing the religious status on their identification card. The Egyptian government continues to deny requests to build, renovate, and repair places of worship. Young Coptic women continue to be vulnerable targets of abductions, forced marriages and forced conversions by Muslim men. Their stories: Engy Adel was on her way home from school in Alexandria when a van with no plates pulled beside her, grabbed her and drove away. Only 12 years old, Engy had been abducted. Interviewed on Al-Hayat television, Engy explained what happened: “I was coming out of school on a normal day going home. Then there was a van and some guys who came out of the van and began following me. Then two of them grabbed me and tied my arms and pushed me into the van. I woke up and found myself in an apartment... A man called Sultan took me into the room and tied my hands behind my back and raped me. Another four entered in and one after the other, they raped me. Each raped me and was brutally hurting my body as if I was their enemy. They beat me so heavily… that I could neither eat, drink nor sleep. All they cared for was that I took the drugs and rape me. “Another group of men came and took me away from them. I stayed with them two days and I don’t know how these two days passed by. There were five of them. They were all in the room with me at the same time. I couldn’t tell the difference between day and night – I was raped 24/7. No less than 50 men raped me that much. After that my father found me and brought me back home.” It was not until months later that Adel Wassily, Engy’s father, found his daughter after being notified of her location by an anonymous caller. They moved to an unknown location for Engy’s safety.            

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Overview: Nigeria once again has been included ICC’s Hall of Shame as the trend of anti-Christian mob violence remained steady throughout the year. In 2010, however, most attacks against Christians shifted to Plateau State, located in the central region of the country. This alarming new development indicates the expansion of jihadist violence against states where there is a Christian majority. The year’s worst attack occurred on March 7, as Muslims invaded villages around the capital city of Jos. The mobs attacked sleeping families in their homes at 2 a.m. with machetes. More than 500 Christians were murdered that day, most of whom were women and children. The village raids were not isolated incidents, however. Just ten days later, on March 17, Muslims massacred another twelve Christians, including a pregnant woman in Bei village in Plateau State. Violence targeting Christians would continue at a consistent pace the rest of the year, including the murders of thirteen Christians committed by a Muslim mob in Bei on April 13, and of another seven Christians in Rikwe Chengu village in Plateau State on December 2. The March 7 massacre came on the heels of a conflict between Christians and Muslims in Jos in January. During that conflict, over 300 people were killed. In all, more than 13,750 Christians have been killed by Muslims in northern Nigeria since the introduction of Sharia law in 2001. Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa with nearly the same number of Muslims and Christians living in the country. The northern part of the country is predominately Muslim while Christians make up the majority in the south. Their Stories: Christmas was supposed to be a time of joy and celebration. But for Christians in the cities of Madiguri and Jos in Nigeria, Christmas 2010 was a time of mourning. Islamic radicals carried out attacks, targeting churches and killing more than 38 Christians. When Islamists burst into the Victory Baptist Church in Madiguri (Borno State), Philip Luka and Paul Mathew were among the choir members still rehearsing. The Islamists murdered the choir members and burned the church down. Then they went to the pastor’s residence and killed him. After the attacks, Christian and Muslim youth clashed and more people were killed (Christians and Muslims) than in the original attacks.  

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Overview: Metal shipping containers, military barracks and underground dungeons are the prison cells of more than 3,000 Christians believed to be imprisoned in Eritrea. Reportedly, several of these Christians died in 2010 due to the harsh conditions. Though is it is difficult to obtain information from Eritrea’s closed off society, the number of Christians killed for their faith in 2010 may number in the hundreds. The names of these martyrs – who were tortured and murdered in secret by Eritrea’s tyrannical regime – will never be known. The mass arrests continued in 2010 at an alarming rate. On February 18, seven Christians were arrested for praying in Asmara, the capital city, and again, on March 17, seventeen more were arrested in the town of Segenaite for holding a prayer meeting. Another eleven were arrested in Asmara on May 9, and again the same number was arrested in the towns of Mendefera, Dekemharre and Dibarwa on October 20. Communist ideology, the foundation of Eritrean law, severely restricts the religious freedom of its citizens. Only four religions/denominations are officially recognized by the government: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, Islam, and the Roman Catholic Church. Outside of these approved sects, the government deems it illegal to worship. Their Stories: Hana Asgedom is one of thousands of Christians that have been arrested in Eritrea for their faith in Christ. According to a report by Open Doors, officials of Eritrea promised to free her on the condition that she recant her faith. Asgedom refused to compromise. As punishment, the authorities put her in solitary confinement. Security forces again punished her after she refused sexual advances by the chief commander of the military camp where she was kept. Due to the mistreatment, she suffered a heart attack on January 24. She was the eleventh Christian to die in detention due to inhumane prison conditions and/or lack of medical care.    

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Overview: The lack of an effective government since 1991 has led Somalia into famine, war and relentless brutality against Christians and others. Al-Shabaab, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization which controls regional domains within Somalia, and the leader of anti-Christian hatred within the country, murdered at least six Christians in 2010. While the number may seem low, keep in mind that there are few Christians in the country and the fear caused by Al-Shabaab’s brutality has pushed the church almost completely underground to the extent that Christianity would appear nonexistent to most nationals. Not only does AlShabaab kill nearly every Christian they find, they also execute Christians in the most horrific ways, including stoning and beheadings in public squares. Church leader Osman Abdullah Fataho was among those murdered in 2010, executed in front of his wife and children just before they were abducted. Amina Muse Ali, a Christian woman, was also barbarically murdered for refusing to wear a veil in public on October 19. All Somali Christians are considered apostates – converts from Islam – a grave ‘crime’ which warrants the death penalty under Islamic (Sharia) law. Al-Shabaab is not secretive about their view of Christians, but has publically declared their objective to completely eradicate Christianity from Somalia. Their stories: Muhammad Guul Hashim Idiris, a Christian convert from Islam, was traveling by land from Kalafo, an Ethiopian border town, to visit his mother in the Somalia capital of Mogadishu. A fellow passenger recognized his Christian background and asked him if he thought the prophet Muhammad was a genuine messenger from God. Idiris responded by saying, “If I thought so, I would have believed in him instead of the Messiah.” Once they reached the Hudur district, a stronghold of the Al-Shabaab terror network, the Muslim man reported Idiris to Al-Shabaab and had him detained. Idiris was accused of insulting the prophet Muhammad. In Islam, it is a serious sin to consider Muhammad not to be a genuine prophet and it warrants the death penalty.

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Al-Shabaab members publicly executed Idiris on July 1.The execution, which took place at a make-shift soccer stadium, was attended by hundreds of people, including school children who were forced to watch. Sheik Adan Yare, the Al-Shabaab governor of the Bakol region, said to the press, “ Our holy warriors have today, on July 1st at 11: 45 am, executed in front of angry Muslim witnesses, a young man whose name was Muhammad Guul Hashim Idiris who insulted our beloved prophet.” The martyr is survived by his then pregnant widow.

                                 

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Overview: Statistically, Christians are relatively safe in India but Hindu radicalism has been increasing for years and Christians often find themselves the victims of extreme violence. Due to the high number of attacks on Christians in 2010, we could not refrain from once again including India in the 2011 Hall of Shame. Among the worst attacks against India’s Christians took place in 2008 when Hindu radicals killed over 100 Christians in Orissa and forced more than 55,000 to leave their homes. Many of the perpetrators of the Orissa violence are still at large and the government has acted slowly to bring others to justice. In addition to the lingering problem in Orissa, Christian persecution has been ongoing in 2010. Among the most prominent acts was the murder of Evangelist Ravi Murmu on May 2 after showing a film about Jesus in Laxmanpur. Another pastor, Pangi Papa Rao, was decapitated and cut to pieces in front of his wife on September 4 by communist (Maoists) rebels in Valam Guve village, Andhra Pradesh State. Additionally, churches have been demolished and a Bible college was vandalized as neither the lives nor property of Christians is safe in many regions throughout India.

Their Stories: On October 28, 2010, Sonadei was attending the funeral of her 18-month-old daughter in Orissa. During the funeral, radicals surrounded the area and told the Christians not to bury the deceased because the land belongs to Hindus. They attacked the Christians with machetes and sticks. The Christians ran away, taking the body of the deceased child. Sonadei was severely injured as a result of the attack. She could not receive any medical attention due to a lack of medical facilities in Bendaguda, the village where the attack occurred. Pastor Vijay Kumar, who was also attacked at the funeral, told ICC that victims hid in a house with the decomposing body of the baby. On November 4, Sonadei gave birth to a baby girl. Her baby only lived for three days. The infant had suffered injuries when her mother was attacked just days before her birth.

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Overview: Pakistan’s blasphemy laws authorize government and societal persecution of Christians. Indeed, Pakistan is a country that absolutely refuses to progress toward a religiously free society. According to Pakistani law, to blaspheme the name of Muhammad is a crime punishable by death and to desecrate the Qur’an warrants life imprisonment. Several Christians were killed in 2010 as a direct consequence of these laws and many more have been imprisoned. For example, on November 7, a court in Pakistan sentenced a Christian mother of four, Asia Bibi, to death for ‘blasphemy’ in Punjab province. Coworkers complained to a cleric that Bibi made derogatory comments about Muhammad. Bibi was beaten by her neighbors before police intervened. Her case soon received widespread international attention and condemnation over Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Bibi has since appealed the decision. In addition to laws targeting Christians, anti-Christian hatred and violence were rampant throughout 2010. This can largely be attributed to the fact that perpetrators often act with impunity. On July 13, a Muslim doctor raped and threw a Christian nursing student, Magdalene Ashraf, from a fourthfloor window in Karachi. On July 15, masked men killed five Christians upon leaving a worship service. On July 22, Muslim students gang raped a 12-year-old Christian girl in Gujar Khan, Rawalpindi district. On September 28, Islamic extremists killed a Christian lawyer, his wife and their five children in Northwestern Pakistan. And the list goes on… Their Stories: Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother Sajid Emmanuel were arrested on July 2, 2010 after Muslims accused of them of writing a pamphlet with blasphemous remarks about the Prophet Muhammad. The charges were based on handwritten and photocopied pamphlets with remarks about the prophet Muhammad that the Muslims consider offensive. Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel’s names and phone numbers were printed on the pamphlets. The police expert witnesses indicated that the handwriting on the pamphlets didn’t match Rashid or Sajid’s hand writing. On July 19, the Christians appeared before the court. Following the hearing, the police were transporting them to jail when masked Islamists shot and brutally killed them both. A policeman accompanying the Christians was also seriously wounded by the attackers.

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Overview: North Korea unquestionably remains at the top of 2011’s Hall of Shame. Due to the nature of it being a tightly controlled police State, very little information leaves the country about the daily life of those who live there, including the small Christian population. Children are taught that Kim Il-sung descended to the peak of Mount Paektu, where he took on human form along with his son Kim Jong-il. The Kims are portrayed as deities and saviors. In light of this, the gospel message can easily be seen as a threat to the nationalist religious dogma. Many Christians inside North Korea are exposed to Christianity when they cross the porous North Korea/China border but are unable to worship freely after returning home. Information that does escape North Korea’s borders indicates that Christians suffer harsher penalties than most criminals do. An estimated 100,000 Christians are thought to be in labor camps, pushed to the point of being worked to death. Their Stories: Robert Park walked across North Korea’s border in late 2009. He carried with him a Bible and a letter suggesting Kim Jong-il step down as leader of the North. He was arrested and held prisoner for 43 days. During that time he reports his captors went to many extremes, including sexually assaulting him to break his will. After his resolve was broken, he read a prepared statement saying that North Korea did in fact support religious freedom. He is currently speaking out about the “evil” he experienced during his detention, and has said he will never be able to have a normal life after the horrors he has faced. According to a report by Asia News, in mid-May, North Korean officials raided a house church in Pyungsung County and arrested 23 Christians. They executed three pastors and sent the other 20 believers to the infamous labor camp No 15 in Yodok.      

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Overview: China remained one of the world’s most repressive governments in 2010, and among the top persecutors of Christians in this year’s Hall of Shame. In late 2010, the Chinese government listed Christianity as a cult, allowing further justification for government-backed persecution. Religious persecution has forced an estimated 100 million plus Christians underground to worship in house churches. These house churches have become a target for its administration. As seen in the past, the Chinese government continues to conduct periodic raids on house churches and other Christian events, often arresting believers and confining them to ‘reeducation through labor’ camps without a court hearing (an attempt to reform the prisoner to a patriotic socialist ideology and, in turn, a recanting of faith). At the close of 2010, China experienced intense international condemnation as a result of refusing to release Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo (serving an eleven year sentence for “inciting subversion of State power”). Xiaobo, a human rights lawyer, was the first Chinese citizen to win the Nobel Peace Prize. As the award ceremony approached, Xiaobo and other scholars and Christians were prevented from leaving China’s borders; this coincided with an internal communication blackout on the issue. The provinces of Henan, Beijing, Xinjiang, Shandong and Zhejiang have experienced the worst cases of persecution. China Aid, an NGO that focuses solely on Chinese persecution of Christians, reported more than 100 incidents in 2010. Their Stories: On September 26, 2010, members of a house church in Youqing, Sichuan province were worshipping when their church was raided by Chinese security officials. The security beat the Christians and confiscated their private property, according to the report by China Aid. Twenty of the members were arrested. China has worked to authorize the state run church to take the place of the house church movement. Those who worship outside the leadership of the state are considered a cult.

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Overview: Government instigated oppression against religious minorities – as seen in other Asian countries like China and North Korea – defines Christian persecution in Vietnam. Vietnam has established ‘government approved’ churches for worship, but those who meet in non-authorized buildings for worship face perpetual discrimination and hardships. In August, the government announced an offensive that the military and police refer to as “tieu quet” or “wipe out.” The operation is aimed specifically at the Degar church of the central highlands. More than 750,000 of Vietnam’s ethnic minority have converted to evangelical Christianity since 1975. In addition, there are eight million Catholics in Vietnam proper who continue to face repression for their faith. Church property is regularly confiscated by the government without redress. Hmong and Montagnard Christians continue to be doubly persecuted as both an ethnic and religious minority. By refusing to join the officially sanctioned Church, they face beatings and imprisonment, and have come to be defined historically as an exploited and oppressed people. The communist government gives a constitutional right of freedom of religion. However, it justifies the suppression of religious groups on the basis of national security. Their Stories: An imprisoned Vietnamese Christian, K’Pa Lot, died on March 11 after a long period of abuse and torture. Vietnamese authorities released him just prior to death in order to keep it off the official record. Security officials forced the family to quickly bury his body. K’Pa, 31 at the time of his death, is survived by his wife and two children. His widow, H’Nguen, was forced to take their children to the Nhan Hoa Police Station and told she must sign documents giving custody of them to the government. In a separate incident, on January 27, evangelist Ksor Y Du was arrested and later sentenced to six years imprisonment. He was accused of “undermining national security.” While arresting him, the police tied his hands and dragged him behind a motorcycle. During his trial, police demanded his daughter testify against him. When she refused, a female officer slapped her twice across the face. The police also tried to force his wife to recant her faith but without success. When the judge asked him if he was going to change his religion, Ksor told officials that he would not even if it meant he would be killed.

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