On 5 October 2010 at the European Parliament, Mr. Kok Ksor President of the Montagnard Foundation spoke about ongoing persecution of Christians in Vietnam. This conference was organised by European Parliamentarians Mario Mauro MEP (EPP Group) and Konrad Szymanski MEP (ECR Group) and the Commision of the Bishops Confernces of the European Community. The event included a written appeal that religious freedom be incorporated into the European External Policies of the EU, with a binding clause on the respect of freedom of religion. During his speech Mr Kok Ksor described how Vietnam is continuing with persecution of Christians, namely indigenous Montagnards (Degar people). His testimony includes torture, beatings and arrests of Christians. He also described how the Sang Ae Die Degar church has responded to violence by peacefully joining this Church with members reaching over 20,000 members in Vietnam. Vietnam authorities have unfortunately only escalated violence towards these indigenous tribal Christians.
The Text of Mr. Kok Ksor’s speech is as follows:
Vietnamese military and police Forces attack Degar Christians
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
First and foremost, I would like to thank Mr. Mario Mauro and Mr. Konrad Szymanski for being so kind to invite me to speak here today at the most important conference on the “Religious Persecution Against Christians”.
I would like to let you know that there are no words, which I can use to express my deep appreciation and thanks for being invited today to speak in front of this body of the European Parliamentary. The cry of my people have been buried by the repressive power of the Vietnamese government for a long time now but because of your compassionate hearts, Mr. Mauro and Mr. Szimanski, our cries and sufferings will be heard by the European Members of Parliament. Therefore, I would like to reiterate that I am so honored and so thankful for being able to speak to you today.
To my surprise, the United Nations has finally sent an Independent expert on minority issues, Ms. Gay McDougall to the Central Highlands of Vietnam to uncover the truth about the situation of the Degar or Montagnard people in the Central Highlands.
In her statement on the 21st of July 2010 Ms. McDougall states, “I am concerned that minorities are achieving poor results in education relative to Kinh students. One of the problems that has been identified is that minorities lack adequate opportunities to be taught in their own minority languages from the earliest years of education and struggle with being taught only in Vietnamese.” This is a strong statement that Ms. McDougall has put forth, and I am afraid that if the Vietnamese government continues to manipulate the education system of the Degar people we as an ethnic group will stop to exist as we are identified by our culture and language.
She also raises concerns relating to the rights of the Minorities directly to the Vietnamese government by stating that “As in many countries with such diversity, numerous challenges exist to ensuring that members of minority groups can fully realize all their economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and live in conditions of equality. The rights of minorities include freedom to practice the religions without restriction, freedom of association and expression, the right of peaceful assembly, the equal right to own and use land and the right to participate fully and effectively in decision- making regarding issues that affect them, including with respect to economic development projects and re-settlement issues”.
So what can the international community do to help? There are rules and laws set forth by the United Nations, which are very important for all people around the world. It is because of these laws and rules that we are able to struggle for our freedom and rights as indigenous people through non-violent strategies. We are therefore so thankful. But, to most of the State Members of the United Nations, these rules and laws have no meaning at all. So what good are rules and laws if they are not enforced? They then become just mere words on paper and discouraging to say the least for those who are dependent on the help of the United Nations.
Furthermore, we the indigenous Degar people of the Central Highlands have been peacefully struggling for our rights to co-exist with the Vietnamese people in harmony and equality since 1958. But, the Vietnamese government is always finding ways to accuse our people of something so that they can destroy our race of people instead of looking for the best way for reconciliation. At the present time, we the indigenous Degar people are acknowledging that the Vietnamese government is committing genocide whether we struggle for our human rights or not.
The Degar people are no longer going to wait for the Vietnamese government to give us our rights as defined under the United Nations rules and laws. And, we cannot wait for the United Nations to act on their rules and laws to help solve our problem because they continue to ignore our people’s sufferings.
We are therefore going to go ahead and live out our rights accordingly to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and so on.
We are going to start with our right to freedom of religion. Death will become of every man but the Bible speaks of hope for life for our souls. It is through God’s Word that Degar Christians are drawing encouragement, strength, and hope. The second right we are going to exercise is the right to co-exist with others in harmony, peace and prosperity. Since the Hanoi government invaded our homeland, they have deprived us of all of our rights, confiscated all of our farmlands, closed all of our churches, took away our right to worship our Lord God and so on.
This goes against their constitution, which have been worded very sweetly. For instances, Article 70 chapter 5 of the Vietnamese Fundamental Rights and Duties of Citizen says “The citizen shall enjoy freedom of belief and of religion; he can follow any religion or follow none. All religions are equal before the law. The places of worship of all faiths and religions are protected by the law. No one can violate freedom of belief and of religion; nor can anyone misuse beliefs and religions to contravene the law and state policies”. But in reality, this is not so.
According to this article 70 our right to freedom of religion is protected under the Vietnamese constitution. Instead, on 20 August 2010 the Vietnamese government has begun its so-called “Military Wiping Operation” to wipe out all Degar Christians. They are promoting their government-sanctioned religion while persecuting others who are refusing to follow. To combat this, we have therefore launched a campaign in the Central Highlands of Degar Christians who would be willing to sacrifice themselves for their right to freedom of religion so that the Degar people as a whole could have their own church and preach in their own language.
In two months of campaigning, July and August, we have so far reached 203 villages with 23,945 Degar Christians volunteer to join our Sang Ae Die Degar (The Church of Degar people). During this campaign people have gathered together to worship, fellowship, and pray.
Unfortunately, this campaign has been met with violence by the Vietnamese government, and they have done nothing to peacefully solve the problem.
Instead, on 20 August 2010 the Vietnamese government sent hundreds and hundreds of well equipped soldiers, riot police and local police to attack around 32 Villages of Degar Christians with some type of chemical. Many of our Christian Brothers and Sisters have been arrested. Soldiers surround villages so that no one can escape and the riot police would enter these villages, spraying villagers with chemical that we do not know and beating them up while afterwards the local police would handcuffed them and threw them on their army trucks and took them away.
At the police station the arrested would be forced to sign some kind of paper by threatening them with torture and imprisonment. Some of them were sent back home where their families were forced to take them to the hospital and pay for the bills. Some of them were sent directly to prison and their whereabouts are not known.
So far, 24 of them were sent to prison and their whereabouts are unknown. We are afraid that they will end up like our two brothers, Ksor Daih and Ksor Jak who were arrested on 24 Feb. 2004. They were later released with severe injuries with broken backbones and legs.
Recently, our Christian Brother Rahlan Hlan was arrested on 28 Aug. 2010 and was released on 1 Sept. 2010 because they didn’t want him to die in their hands. So far, his family has spent 600,000 VD for his treatment but we don’t know whether or not he will live or die from his injuries of torturing.
Up to the present time, the Vietnamese government continues to attack our villages, arresting, torturing and then sending them back to their families to be treated or sending them directly to prison. In addition, the Vietnamese government is now using their sanctioned religion, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam, to fight with other religion in order to control the Degar people.
According to my knowledge, the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN) is not a real church of God but it is only a camouflage of the military strategy to bring people under its control. It has been reported by VietBao Daily Online June 13 of 2007 and posted by Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the government will be heading a new project to control the Degar people. This special project was established on September 20, 2007 as an attempt to help the minority ethnic in the Central Highlands, as they would have the world to believe. This special program states that the government must recruit and train 21,811 Communist Party’s Cadres to be pastors throughout the Central Highlands.
The main mission of these cadre pastors is, to preach the gospel under the leadership of the Communist Party. This we know is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ but the gospel of the government.
The ultimate goal is to have the believers under the control of the government worshiping the party above God. In other words, the believer must not put God above all.
According to our belief, it is totally wrong and we don’t want to follow this. As Christians, God takes priority in our lives and it doesn’t matter what it will take for us to follow Jesus we will do it. We will submit our lives daily into the hands of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and into the hands of our Almighty God the Father. We understand that we will be persecuted for our beliefs. In Matthew 24:9 Jesus says, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me”. Therefore we know what is ahead of us and we therefore find comfort is God’s Word.
It is because of our resilience in our belief the Vietnamese government is forcing our Christians to follow their sanctioned church. By infiltrating the church they believe they can better control the Degar people. But because we refuse to follow, the Vietnamese government has resorted to using the military troops and police forces to arrest, torture and imprison us. How can we therefore say that the Vietnamese government support freedom of religion? Are we not citizens of Vietnam? Does their constitution not protect us from persecution? If we are not citizens then what are we?
I sit here before you today humbly asking the European Members of Parliament and International Community to help convince the Vietnamese government to peacefully resolve this issue. They must stop the persecution toward its own citizen, especially the Indigenous Degar People of the Central Highlands. Vietnam must honestly begin to respect all of the United Nations treaties which they have ratified. And lastly I would like to say that while the world may hate us we know that our God loves us.
If God is for us who can be against us? Roman 8:31
Thank you and God bless.