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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
01HANOI3273 2001-12-17 10:06:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Hanoi
Cable title:  

QNEW CHALLENGES FOR THE RECENTLY RECOGNIZED PROTESTANTS

Tags:   PHUM PGOV PINS VM KRIF HUMANR RELFREE 
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171006Z Dec 01

2001HANOI03273 - CONFIDENTIAL
 
 
 
                           CONFIDENTIAL     PTQ9468

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FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5029
INFO ASEAN COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHDC
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
SECDEF WASHDC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 003273 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND DRL
SECDEF FOR ABLAGG

E.O. 12958: DECL 12/16/2011
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PINS VM KRIF HUMANR RELFREE
SUBJECT: QNEW CHALLENGES FOR THE RECENTLY RECOGNIZED PROTESTANTS




1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY POL/C SCOTT D. BELLARD,
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 HANOI 03273 01 OF 02 171030Z
REASON 1.5 (D)



2. (C) SUMMARY: ACCORDING TO TWO CREDIBLE
SOURCES, SINCE OFFICIAL GVN RECOGNITION OF THE
SOUTHERN EVANGELICAL CHURCH OF VIETNAM (SECV) IN
APRIL, THE GVN HAS TRIED TO LIMIT THE NUMBER OF
SECV CHURCHES, PARTICULARLY IN THE CENTRAL
HIGHLANDS PROVINCE OF LAM DONG, AND TO FILL A
NUMBER OF SECV LEADERSHIP POSITIONS WITH ITS OWN
NOMINEES. GVN OFFICIALS DENY THIS. WHILE THE SECV
IS AT LEAST AUTHORIZED TO EXIST LEGALLY, MANY OF
ITS ACTIVITIES STILL REMAIN UNDERGROUND. END
SUMMARY.



3. (C) PASTOR TINH, (STRICTLY PROTECT), A
PROTESTANT MINISTER WITH ASSOCIATES THROUGHOUT
VIETNAM AND A LONGTIME EMBASSY AND CONGEN CONTACT,
MET POLOFF ON DECEMBER 6 IN HANOI AND DESCRIBED
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SECV SINCE ITS OFFICIAL
RECOGNITION BY THE GVN EIGHT MONTHS AGO. A WELL-
INFORMED THIRD COUNTRY NATIONAL (TCN) SOURCE, WHO
HAS ASKED NOT TO BE NAMED, MET WITH POLOFF ON
DECEMBER 8 AND 10 IN HANOI. BOTH ALSO DISCUSSED
CLERGY TRAINING, HOUSE CHURCHES AND ISSUES RELATED
TO MONTAGNARD AND H'MONG MINORITY PROTESTANTS
(SEPTELS). NGUYEN VAN NGOC, VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE
GVN COMMITTEE ON RELIGION, MET POL/C AND POLOFF ON
DECEMBER 13 AND PROVIDED A GVN PERSPECTIVE ON THE
EVOLVING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE GVN AND THE SECV.

NEW LIMITS
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 03 HANOI 03273 01 OF 02 171030Z


--------------------------





4. (C ) ACCORDING TO PASTOR TINH AND THE TCN, GVN
OFFICIALS, ESPECIALLY IN LAM DONG PROVINCE, ARE
TELLING SECV LEADERS THAT THEY WILL ONLY RECOGNIZE
ONE SECV CHURCH IN EACH DISTRICT. THE TCN
EXPLAINED THAT THE GVN WAS IMPLEMENTING THIS
DECISION BY ALLOWING THE SECV TO BUILD ONLY ONE NEW
BUILDING, OR RECONVERT OR REFURBISH ONLY ONE PRE-
1975 CHURCH BUILDING PER DISTRICT. FEW, IF ANY,
PRE-1975 CHURCH BUILDINGS HAD BEEN USED AS HOUSES
OF WORSHIP IN RECENT YEARS DUE TO LACK OF LEGAL
STATUS, HE NOTED. THE TCN SAID THAT HE HAD LEARNED
FROM SECV LEADERS THAT THE GVN HAD TOLD CHURCH
LEADERS THAT ALL CHURCH MEETINGS IN LAM DONG WERE
ONLY TO BE HELD IN THE AUTHORIZED CHURCH BUILDINGS.
(COMMENT: MANY SECV CONGREGATIONS MET AS "HOUSE
CHURCHES" FOR YEARS. MANY OBSERVERS HOPED THAT GVN
RECOGNITION OF THE SECV WOULD ALLOW THESE MEETINGS
TO BE HELD OPENLY. END COMMENT.) THE TCN SAID THAT
SINCE THERE WERE NOW "AUTHORIZED" PLACES TO MEET,
THE GVN COULD CONSIDER ILLEGAL ANY CHURCH MEETINGS
HELD ELSEWHERE.



5. (C ) ACCORDING TO PASTOR TINH, THE ONE CHURCH
PER DISTRICT POLICY IMPOSES HARDSHIPS ON CHURCH
MEMBERS IN MOUNTAINOUS AREAS BECAUSE THE
"AUTHORIZED" CHURCH BUILDINGS ARE TOO SMALL AND TOO
FAR APART TO ACCOMMODATE ALL OF THE LOCAL SECV
WORSHIPERS. PASTOR TINH CONFIRMED THAT WHEN
CONGREGATIONS TRIED TO CONTINUE TO MEET ON A "HOUSE
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 04 HANOI 03273 01 OF 02 171030Z
CHURCH" BASIS, THEY WERE HARASSED BY THE POLICE.
HE SAID THAT THEY HAVE NOW REGROUPED IN SMALLER
"CELL CHURCHES" COMPOSED OF ABOUT 5-12 ADULTS, WITH
NO MORE THAN ABOUT 20 WORSHIPPERS OVERALL. SO FAR,
PASTOR TINH NOTED, THE SMALLER MEETINGS HAVE NOT
ATTRACTED POLICE ATTENTION.



6. (U) WHEN ASKED ABOUT GVN REGULATION OF THE
NUMBER OF SECV CHURCHES, VICE CHAIRMAN NGOC
INSISTED THAT THERE WAS NO GVN LIMIT ON THE NUMBER
OF CHURCHES. HE SAID THAT THE NUMBER OF CHURCHES
WAS UP TO THE SECV, BUT HE ADDED THAT THE GVN WAS
CONCERNED THAT CHURCHES BE ECONOMICALLY VIABLE.
EACH CHURCH, HE SAID, SHOULD BE LARGE ENOUGH TO
SUPPORT ITSELF, INCLUDING PROVIDING FOR ITS PASTOR
AND HIS FAMILY. VICE CHAIRMAN NGOC CITED THE
FIGURE OF 500 MEMBERS FOR A VIABLE CHURCH. IN
REPLY TO A QUESTION, HE CLARIFIED THAT IT WAS NOT A
GVN REQUIREMENT THAT A CHURCH HAVE AT LEAST 500
MEMBERS AND THAT CHURCH SIZE WAS UP TO THE SECV.
HE SAID THERE WERE NOW 300-400 SECV CHURCHES IN
ALL, SERVED BY OVER 200 PASTORS AND ASSOCIATES.

NEW STRUCTURE


--------------------------



CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 02 HANOI 03273 02 OF 02 171030Z


7. (C ) PASTOR TINH DESCRIBED THE SECV'S
REORGANIZATION THAT HAD BEEN A NECESSARY PART OF
THE PROCESS OF GAINING GVN RECOGNITION THE FORMER
"GENERAL EVANGELICAL COUNCIL" WAS REPLACED BY A NEW
THE "GENERAL COMMITTEE," WHOSE MEMBERSHIP WAS
SELECTED BASED ON A SECV/GVN CONSENSUS. HOWEVER,
PASTOR TINH CLAIMED THAT TWO "GENERAL COMMITTEE"
MEMBERS, PASTORS THANH AND BUU, ARE NOW WORKING
CLOSELY WITH THE GVN COMMITTEE ON RELIGION. BOTH
PASTOR TINH AND THE TCN REPORTED THAT SOME CURRENT
MEMBERS OF THE SECV LEADERSHIP, WHICH THEY CLAIMED
HAD BEEN INSTALLED WITH GVN SUPPORT, ARE SUSPECTED
OF DIVULGING UNDERGROUND CHURCH ACTIVITIES TO THE
GVN.



8. (C ) ANOTHER ASPECT OF SECV REORGANIZATION WAS
TO REPLACE "DISTRICT REPRESENTATIVES" AS
INTERMEDIARIES BETWEEN THE SECV LEADERSHIP AND
LOCAL CHURCHES WITH A SMALLER NUMBER OF "PROVINCIAL
REPRESENTATIVES." WHILE THE "GENERAL COMMITTEE"
NOMINATES "PROVINCIAL REPRESENTATIVES," PASTOR TINH
SAID THAT THE GVN COMMITTEE ON RELIGION HAD VETOED
A NUMBER OF THE CHURCH'S NOMINEES FOR "PROVINCIAL
REPRESENTATIVE" POSTS AND SUBSTITUTED ITS OWN
CHOICES. ACCORDING TO PASTOR TINH, THE SECV'S
"GENERAL COMMITTEE" DOES NOT HAVE THE POWER TO
REJECT THE GVN COMMITTEE ON RELIGION'S CHOICES.



9. (U ) SEPARATELY, IN ANSWER TO A QUESTION, VICE
CHAIRMAN NGOC ASSERTED THAT THE GVN HAD NO ROLE
WHATSOEVER IN SELECTING OR APPROVING EITHER
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PAGE 03 HANOI 03273 02 OF 02 171030Z
"GENERAL COMMITTEE" MEMBERS OR "PROVINCIAL
REPRESENTATIVES." HE ALSO REPLIED THAT IT WAS UP
TO THE PASTORS IN EACH PROVINCE TO DECIDE UPON
THEIR REPRESENTATIVE(S) AMONG THEMSELVES IN FREE
ELECTIONS.



10. (C ) PASTOR TINH CLAIMED SPECIFICALLY THAT
FEAR OF "BAD" LEADERS LIKE "GENERAL COMMITTEE"
MEMBERS THANH AND BUU AND THE GVN-SELECTED
"PROVINCIAL REPRESENTATIVES" KEEPS MANY CHURCH
ACTIVITIES UNDERGROUND. THE TCN CLAIMED THAT HIS
VIETNAMESE CONTACTS FIND HIM BETTER INFORMED THAN
THEY ARE ON MANY CHURCH ISSUES BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT
SURE WHOM THEY CAN TRUST.



11. (C ) COMMENT: GOVERNMENT RECOGNITION HAS HAD
SOME BENEFITS FOR THE SECV, SUCH AS THE ABILITY TO
ARRANGE FOR LEGAL PUBLICATION OF RELIGIOUS
MATERIALS THROUGH THE GVN COMMITTEE ON RELIGION'S
PUBLISHING HOUSE AND THE POSSIBILITY OF REOPENING A
SEMINARY. NONETHELESS, SOME PROTESTANTS LIKE
PASTOR TINH ARE INCREASINGLY SKEPTICAL OR
AMBIVALENT ABOUT THE WISDOM OF THE SECV HAVING
SOUGHT AND OBTAINED OFFICIAL RECOGNITION. SECV
INTERNAL POLITICS MAY ALSO PLAY A ROLE IN THE
MISTRUST AMONG SOME OF ITS LEADERS; PASTOR TINH
MENTIONED THAT BOTH PASTOR THANH AND PASTOR BUU HAD
TRIED UNSUCCESSFULLY IN THE PAST TO BECOME
PRESIDENT OF THE SECV. BUT THE GVN'S OWN
BUREAUCRATIC REGULATORY APPROACH TO RELIGION, AND
MOST OTHER ISSUES, PROBABLY DOES NOT MESH WELL WITH
CONFIDENTIAL

PAGE 04 HANOI 03273 02 OF 02 171030Z
THE FLUID WAYS OF VIETNAM'S PROTESTANT LEADERS,
USED TO DECADES OF FREEWHEELING UNDERGROUND
ACTIVITY. ON BALANCE, RECOGNITION IS NEITHER A
PANACEA NOR NECESSARILY PART OF A SINISTER PLOT TO
BRING RELIGION UNDER COMPLETE GVN AND COMMUNIST
PARTY OF VIETNAM CONTROL.
BURGHARDT

CONFIDENTIAL