A man from an opium-smoking village in Vietnam was imprisoned for more than two years not for drugs but because he converted to Christianity.
Mission News Network reported that Thuan, not his real name, was arrested by the police a few months after he converted to Christianity. Thuan grew up in a village renowned for smoking opium and excessive drinking but was invited to the nearby village two years ago to have dinner with a local missionary named Pastor Dang, also not his real name.
The leader of the said ministry, whose name was not disclosed, told Mission News Network that Thuan's dinner with Pastor Dang changed his disposition against hearing the Gospel, which led him to eventually accept Christ in his life. He then accepted Pastor Dang's invitation to visit his house church about 20 miles away.
"He had heard the Gospel from the local missionary, Pastor Dang*, many times, but he didn't like hearing it, because in his village there was not one Christian, and people liked to get drunk and smoke opium every day," the leader said.
"Thuan heard the Gospel from Pastor Dang, and he received Christ. When Thuan went back to his village, his life was changed, and his wife and children went with him to the house church in the other village to hear the Gospel. After the worship time, his family received Christ, too," the leader added.
A changed man, Thuan shared the Gospel to his neighbors who were then converted, too. The three families and Thuan's would then visit Pastor Dang every Sunday and join the worship. They, later on, being a big number of 17 and too big to travel to the next village, held the worship services in Thuan's home. This was the start of trouble in Thuan's life.
The police officers came to his home three Sundays after they started holding worship there. The police interrogated him for converting to Christianity since most of the villagers worshipped nature and their ancestors.
The police pointed out that Thuan had no permit to hold worship services in his home after the latter raised that there are thousands of Christians in Vietnam. They stressed that they have to go instead to a church that the government recognizes.
"They then went to Pastor Dang's house church every Sunday morning, but the old people and the children couldn't go because it was too far away for them. So they continued to gather for worship at Thuan's house, and he was sharing the Holy Bible with them. The policemen and many people in their hamlet came and destroyed their houses, taking everything--motorcycles, rice, pigs, goats, cows, and kicked them out of the hamlet," the ministry leader narrated.
The four families were then forced to leave and head to the jungle bringing with them what was left of their belongings. They lived in the jungle for three months where they built a campsite. The Christian leaders reported the matter to higher police and religious officials, which made the local police fetch Thuan and the rest of his companions from the jungle. They were told it was already safe for them to return to the village, which they actually did. When they returned, the worship services continued in Thuan's home, but eventually led him to being imprisoned for 26 months in prison camp.
"When they came back to the village, they continued to gather to worship the Lord in Thuan's house. So Thuan was put in prison, sentenced to 26 months in prison camp. He was released last month," the ministry leader continued.
Accordingly, the Vietnamese government allows such imprisonment due to its 2018 Law on Belief and Religion, which makes it illegal to worship in non-government approved places of worship. But the law has been subject to abuse as it used to prohibit pastors from making home-based worship. Smaller fellowships are then forced to combine with registered churches that the government can easily manipulate.