REPORT. U.S. and Vietnamese American Clergies Rallying for Human Rights and Religious Freedom for the Indigenous People in Vietnam

From June 22 to June 28, 2019, a delegation of 18 Vietnamese American clergies, 1 college professor, and 2 Ph.D. staff, representing 32 of 54 Vietnamese indigenous tribal groups, accompanied by 4 U.S. pastors who represent over 2000 congregations across America arrived in Washington D.C. to rally for Human Rights, freedom of religions, prisoners of conscience, and Vietnamese refugees in Thailand.

The delegation had a scheduled meeting as follow: U.S. committee on International Freedom of Religions; U.S. Department of State Ambassador At Large on International freedom of Religions, Samuel Brownback; Victim of Communism Foundation; Human Rights Committee Tom Lantos; U.S. Senate Offices U.S. Senator Tom Tillis and Richard Bull; U.S. Congressional Offices Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Luis Correa (D-CA), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Ted Budd (D-NC), and Christopher Smith (R-NJ).

Rev. Nguyễn Công Chính (center), Pastor Ernie Sander (left), Pastor Donovan Larkins (right)

For more than 30 years of experience living and working with the Vietnamese indigenous population in Central Highland of Vietnam, Rev. Chinh also was a prisoner of religion. He received a jail sentence for 11 years and was tortured and mistreated by jail guards during his time in jail. In the end he was set free by pressure from the U.S. government and many countries of the free world that spoke up for his freedom.

In July 2017 he was set free by communist Vietnam and stripped of his Vietnamese citizenship along with his wife and children to exile. The U.S. government sponsored for his departure to resettle in the U.S. as political and religious refugee.

For the past two years he has rallied across America, especially the U.S. Department of State, United Nations, and U.S. Congress for support of Human Rights and religious freedom, for the release of prisoners of conscience, and for saving the Vietnamese ethnic Montagnard refugees in Thailand and Cambodia to soon arrive at the freedom shore. Rev. Chinh has rallied with many U.S. pastors from various states of Ohio, California, and North Carolina to come together to Washington D.C. with the Montagnard pastors to rally for Human Rights and religious freedom for the Vietnamese Montagnards from June 25 to 28, 2019.

On the eve of June 22, 2019, a group of U.S. and Vietnamese American Pastors having dinner in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Indigenous Vietnamese in Vietnam continues to be suppressed and denied of their Human Rights. These issues becomes ever more alarming and worse starting from the beginning of 2019 until today. The indigenous Vietnamese includes the Montagnard, the H’mong, Cham, and Khmer-Krom. Most are Baptists and catholic faith denomination. The clergies, volunteers, and followers often were suppressed and mistreated by the communist Vietnamese regime. Their churches and places of wordship are often under surveillance, confiscated and destroyed.


Morning of June 26, 2019 the U.S. and Vietnamese American clergies arrived at USCIRF.

Addressing these atrocities and injustice, last week a delegation of 22 clergies representing several U.S. Baptist churches and Ethnic Vietnamese Montagnard Christian Church from many regions of the U.S. congregated in Washington DC to rally in support of human Rights for the indigenous peoples in Vietnam. Four U.S. clergies led by Pastor Ernie Sanders, Hal Larsen, and John Donelan of World Baptist Church in Cleveland, OH, and Pastor Donovan Larkins from Spirit of Life Christian Center in Dayton, OH.

Delegation of 22 U.S. and Vietnamese American clergies met with the U.S. Committee on International Religious Freedom at the U.S. Senate Hall with the participation from U.S. Senator Tom Tillis

The delegation had a scheduled meeting as follow: U.S. committee on International Freedom of Religions; U.S. Department of State Ambassador At Large on International freedom of Religions, Samuel Brownback; Victim of Communism Foundation; Human Rights Committee Tom Lantos; U.S. Senate Offices U.S. Senator Tom Tillis and Richard Bull; U.S. Congressional Offices Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Luis Correa (D-CA), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Ted Budd (D-NC), and Christopher Smith (R-NJ).

The delegation had visited several U.S. Senate and Congressional Offices, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Human Rights Committee Tom Lantos, U.S. Committee on International Freedom of Religions, and Victim of Communism Foundation. Rev. Chinh, Chairman of Council of Ethnic Peoples and Religions of Vietnam, CEO Project to upgrade and develop religious freedom spoke on  behalf of prisoners of conscience who were tortured and mistreated with psychologically blackmailed during serving jail time like in the cases of Mr. Thu Van Phan (Cong Tran, a Bia Son case in Phu Yen Province), Pastor Diem Dinh, Pastor Y Yich, Y Pim, Y Min, Truyen Bac Nguyen, Thanh Van Nguyen, Kim Hung Le, Hieu Ngoc Van, and other ethnic prisoners of conscience…Rev. Chinh also mentioned the Council of Interfaith in Vietnam was often harassed and under surveillance and attacked by local authority like in the case of political activist Phi Hua in Lam Dong who was beaten up and shaved his beard, or in the case of Baptist Church in Buon Khit in Daklak Province that was prohibited from having Christmas event, or in the case of family members of prisoners who were often stopped at checkpoints by local police to search and harassed while on their way to visit their loved ones in prisons…

U.S. and Ethnic Vietnamese American clergies met with U.S. Committee on International Religious Freedom.

Senseless attack on indigenous peoples of Vietnam 

Pastor Y’Hin Nie of the United Montagnard Christian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina who represents one million indigenous Vietnamese followers, the M’ong and Khmer-Krom in Vietnam with 54 tribal groups who belong to Evangelical Christian Fellowship, Baptist, Presbyterian, Mennonite and Montagnard Catholic Church. He reported there are more than 50 clergies and over 400 religious followers are being detained in Vietnam.  As the result, their children, about 2000 of them, are without father and about 1000 wives with their husbands disappeared. College students of ethnic background also face persecution from employment opportunities simply because they believe in God. Moreover, most intellects of ethnic background were murdered or killed in various forms. There were also many smaller tribal communities deep in the jungle and far from civilization, they were exterminated systematically or wiped out over time. Their land becomes rubber tree plantation or coffee plantation run by Vietnamese army.

Ethnic delegation led by Pastor Y’Hin Nie (center) met with D-California Congressman Louis Correa (second from right).

Pastor Y’Hin called upon the U.S. government to intervene with Hanoi to stop the mistreatment and oppressive practice aimed at the indigenous people in Vietnam and uphold freedom of religion, return of properties illegally confiscated from religious congregations, and allow religious leaders to participate in religious training in country and abroad, and unconditionally set free prisoners of conscience and allow U.S. and United Nations delegations to Vietnam to investigate, and lastly to put Vietnam back into the Country of Particular Concern status (CPC).

Ethnic Vietnamese refugees in Thailand with banner says, “We are the ethnic peoples of Central Highland-Vietnam being persecuted and oppressed by communist Vietnam. We fled to Thai’s border. We urgently need your help to allow us to settle in the U.S.”

Currently, there are 498 indigenous Vietnamese who have fled to Thai’s border. Among them there are 145 central highlanders, 75 Khmer-Krom, 278 M’ong. Additionally, there are about 300 Vietnamese.  All are hoping to be resettled in third country. They are still facing with repatriation, despite receiving their refugee status by the United Nations.

Pastor Donovan Larkins speaks on the importance of Human Rights and Religious Freedom.

Based on a report by Council of Indigenous Peoples in Today’s Vietnam, Vietnamese communist conducts surveillance and sets up tight control on local tribal organizations and denies them any cultural activity, use of their local dialects and naming of local areas with their dialects, and more frequent arrests or mistreats without just cause.

A few years back, Vietnamese communist jailed a locally well-known Khmer-Krom clergy, Thach Thuong, for no other reason than that he wanted to open a school to teach Khmer dialect to his followers. Furthermore, some local ethnic women were forced into abortion and pregnancy prevention or into a permanent childless condition. 

U.S. and Vietnamese American cleric delegation-meeting with Congressman Harley Rouda.

Vietnamese communist intentionally categorizes the indigenous as minority, a status ploy to deny representation and not recognizes them as Central highlanders, Cham, or Khmer-Krom so that they cannot enjoy internationally recognized status as indigenous people by the United Nations. 

Pastor Ernie Sanders (center) speaks on the subject before U.S. Committee on International Freedom of Religion

Vietnamese communist regime also applies pressure to neighboring countries to demand repatriation of citizens who fled Vietnam. According to the report in November 2018 from the Committee Against Torture, there were 698 cases of Vietnamese refugees were forced into repatriation, a violation against United Nations Agreement on Refugee Status. Once returned to Vietnam they were treated like criminals.

U.S. and Vietnamese American cleric delegation-Meeting with U.S. representative office of Alan Lowenthal 

The local tribal members are not allowed to apply for Fulbright scholarship and barred from other educational opportunities no matter how qualified they are. A small percentage of them were allowed to go abroad when they can prove they belong to the members of the communist party or become spy for the Vietnamese communist.

Congressman Ted Budd

    Congressman Harley Rouda

Resolution. H. Res, 435.


Two U.S. Congressmen, Harley Rouda (D-California) and Ted Budd (R-North Carolina) co-authored the H Res 435 two weeks ago.  This Bill recognizes the contribution of the ethnic Vietnamese Central Highlanders in supporting the United States army as allies during Vietnam War and at the same time denounces oppression of Human Rights and religious freedom by Hanoi. 

Primary conference of the Council of Ethnic Peoples and Religions of Vietnam at U.S. Congress (September 28/2018)

Rev. Nguyễn Công Chính, chairman of the Council of Ethnic Peoples and Religions of Vietnam with many other ethnic groups helped to assist in the creation of House Resolution 435. He called upon our U.S. representatives and Committee on International Religious Freedom and U.S. Department of State in support of it to soon pass through Congress to become law and also in its path calling upon U.S. House of Representatives to sponsor a number of prisoners of conscience who are of ethnic Vietnamese minority to be set free and settled in the U.S. Up until now, there is none to receive such blessing while there are numbers of Vietnamese prisoners of conscience who have received such blessing to settle in the U.S.

Vietnamese American delegation visit to U.S. representative Christopher Smith

Rev. Chính gave an in depth recount on one particular family of Jarai ethnicity from Daklak who was physically attacked and devastated. Her father of Hra ethnicity and mother were so traumatized psychologically as the result of interrogation by local police. Their land was confiscated by communist authority. Her husband who is of Hra ethnicity was jailed at the police station in Ea Hleo District in Daklak. While her husband was in jail, she was violated by five members of the local police force for many days before she escaped to Thai’s border to seek political asylum. On her way to the border with another ethnic woman and her two kids they were again taken advantage sexually by two local guides. Much pitiful for their fate as Jarai ethnic women. They need support. They were received by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Council of Ethnic Peoples and Religions (CPRVN) is currently rallying for them to settle in the U.S.

Delegation visits and works with Victim of Communism Foundation

Mr. Tan Dara Thach, Chairman of the Council of Local Ethnic Peoples in Vietnam Today summarized the cooperation of U.S. clergies with their diplomatic experience and invaluable assistance to the delegation widened the awareness by the U.S. government and Congress of the injustice and struggle ethnic Vietnamese must endure.

Rev. Chinh also called up the U.S. government to apply the Magnitsky Convention or CPC status to curb and prevent religious oppression and Human Rights violation ever increasing in Vietnam.

The Council of Ethnic Peoples and Religions of Vietnam, Council of Baptist Ethnic Interfaith Vietnam, Human Rights Montagnard organization, the United Montagnard Christian Church, and Council of Ethnic Peoples Today’s Vietnam, sincerely thank Pastor Ernie Sanders, Pastor Donovan Larkins, Pastor Hal Larsen and Mr. John Donelan for helping the Montagnard Pastors make this trip possible. May God bless us al

U.S. and Vietnamese American clergies prayed together to thank God at end of the trip from 22-28/6/2019

The trip of 22 U.S. and Vietnamese American clergies to Washington D.C. this time resulted in successful rally for Human Rights, religious freedom, prisoners of conscience and refugees in Thailand. Especially, rallying for House Resolution 435 to soon pass into law.The trip ended at 10:00 a.m. on June 28, 2019. The delegation enjoyed lunch together and prayed the Lord before saying goodbye to each other and with promise to reconvene in future trips…!

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