Vietnamese police and government authorities are trying to crack down on a religious group that is growing in popularity in the country’s northern provinces.
On Monday state-controlled media quoted the Hai Phong City Police as saying the “Jesus Church” is operating in many localities without permission. The Government Committee for Religious Affairs has not yet recognized the “Jesus Church” as a religious organization, the news organizations said.
All religious groups in Vietnam are required to obtain government approval, otherwise they are banned.
The “Jesus Church” is concentrated in provinces including Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Son La, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, and Thanh Hoa.
It was founded around five years ago, according to the Ministry of Public Security, which called it an “evil religion,” saying it was concerned about the rapid growth of the church among the Hmong community.
The ethnic group originally followed animist beliefs but many Hmong converted to Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries.
Hai Phong City Police Department said there are about 100 Hmong people living there and, although they were not “Jesus Church” followers they had issued a warning to try to stop them joining the religion.
Police said the “Jesus Church” was founded by a man calling himself David Her whose real name is Ho Cha Sung. The department said he is a Hmong from Xiangkhoang province in Laos, currently living in California.
In April, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) issued a proposal to put Vietnam back on the list of countries of special concern for not respecting religious freedom, saying the government continues to persecute independent religious communities.
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