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Vietnam: Imprisoned pastor eats insects, mice and frogs to survive

Fri, Jul. 07, 2017 Posted: 03:43 PM


By Mark Ellis

In Vietnam’s Central Highlands, pastors imprisoned for their faith are languishing, facing dire conditions that make it difficult to survive.

Pastors on trial are rarely given access to an attorney, and the length of their prison terms is almost irrelevant, as labor camp officials can extend them indefinitely over the pettiest violations.

“One pastor we know was sentenced for 11 years, but it has already been extended to 20,” Su*, the director of an indigenous ministry told Christian Aid Mission (CAM). “This happens if you don’t get up on time or don’t accomplish your task.”

Leaders of both registered and unregistered churches have left Vietnam, rather than submit to government requirements that their churches combine into one larger church so that authorities can better monitor their actions.

Some flee with their families; others consider it wiser to leave them behind.

Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh, imprisoned since 2011, was placed in a solitary cell in the Xuan Loc Prison in Vietnam’s southern province of Dong Nai since October 2016. He suffers from sinusitis, arthritis, high blood pressure and inflammation of the stomach, but has received no medical treatment from the prison’s authorities, according to his wife.
Church leaders who remain face prison, where Su said 42 church leaders have been languishing for more than 10 years. Recently 15 more leaders of unregistered churches in Gia Lai Province, as well as seven from Dak Lak Province, were sentenced to prison for practicing their faith, he told CAM.

Living conditions in the prisons are harsh, particularly by standards in the West. Inmates receive only one bowl of rice at noon and another in the evening.

“In order to have enough nutrition, family members have to provide additional food, like vegetables for vitamins,” Su said. “The prison allows you 10 to 20 pounds of food per month, depending on the location. Sometimes the prison is too far away; they get visitors only a few times a year due to the travel distance.”

Some pastors don’t have any support from the outside at all.

“One pastor’s family is not allowed to visit him anymore. He’s in a private cell now, so he gets only rice. He’s hungry and malnourished. He eats insects, mice, frogs, whatever is available. When they let you out of the private cell after one or two months, you can’t even walk; you crawl. You cannot stand.”

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Mark Ellis