The attack on a church leaders' worship service of an Agape Baptist Church (ABC) house church in Lai Tao village, 1,000 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City, left one woman leader, Nguyen Thi Lan, with a broken pelvis in two places and badly damaged internal organs, according to doctors who recommended emergency surgery.
Previously, however, doctors at three area hospitals had told her and two other seriously injured Christians that they were fine and dismissed them, said pastor Nguyen Cong Thanh, head of the ABC.
Nguyen Thi Lan is a recently retired Communist Party official who converted to Christianity only last year.
When doctors in Vietnam learn that religious motives play a role in violence, commonly they do not dare to treat or even examine the victims of persecution, according to Compass Direct News, which reported the incident.
ABC head Nguyen Cong Thanh had rushed north from his base in Ho Chi Minh City to help the church members. The attack took place in the home of the injured Nguyen Thi Lan, who had led some 50 extended family members, friends and neighbors to the Christian faith since her conversion.
This had angered a fellow villager identified only by his given name, Khoan. Khoan and his son led a gang into her house and beat several people, leaving pastor Nguyen Danh Chau unconscious and destroying property, sources told Compass Direct. Khoan repeatedly threatened to kill Nguyen Thi Lan, and the gang of about a dozen threatened to kill Nguyen Danh Chau if he continued gathering Christians for worship, the sources said.
ABC head Nguyen Cong Thanh said he tried to obtain medical examinations and treatment for the three most severely wounded in several government clinics and hospitals in the region, but the injured were continually told they needed no care. After a nearly a week, he said the three Christians still suffered acute pain, and they suspected serious internal injuries.
Late on Friday, Nov. 18, five days after the attack, staff members at one hospital told Nguyen Cong Thanh that there would be no examinations the next day and Sunday, and to come back on Monday, when examinations were possible.
At that point ABC leaders decided to take the three injured church members to Ho Chi Minh City, a 1,000-mile, two-hour flight south. They reasoned that even if government hospitals would not take them, they would certainly find some doctors with a conscience in private hospitals, even though such hospitals would be expensive and would require a full-payment deposit before examination and treatment.
Nguyen Thi Lan, who had not been able to eat since the attack, was admitted to a hospital immediately after her examination, as the doctors discovered her broken pelvis and severely injured organs.
Pastor Nguyen Danh Chau, who had severe bruises on his face and head, had also been kicked in his back, chest and stomach. Doctors diagnosed internal injuries to his kidneys, liver and perhaps other organs. He too was admitted for further observation and treatment.
Nguyen Thi Tac, who had been hit with a steel shovel on her chest and stomach as well as her back, also remained in considerable pain, but a medical examination found no serious internal injuries and she was not admitted to the hospital.
In Khoan's rants during the attack, sources said, he charged that the land, now legally owned by Nguyen Thi Lan, had once belonged to his ancestors, implying that the ancestors would be angry that the current residents no longer worshipped them. Blurry cell-phone photos of the attack show a sullen Khoan in a tug-of-war with a woman trying to hang on to the wooden cross he had torn off the wall of the large room the Christians used for worship.
The invading gang destroyed furniture and seriously damaged motorbikes, a small vegetable garden and fruit trees before leaving.
The injured Christians wrote a petition to police indicating the articles of the criminal code that had been violated, but officers have done nothing about Khoan's death threats nor helped to redress the damage done to the Christians and their property.
While not opposing the attempt at securing legal redress, the affected Christians' top leader, Nguyen Cong Thanh, encouraged the injured Christians to show forbearance.
"I pray that you will patiently endure your suffering for Jesus' sake without bitterness," he told them. "Know that the blood you spilled is now joined with Christ's blood in suffering."
A longtime Vietnam religious liberty advocate said there is a growing pattern of strong social persecution in Vietnam where new Christian groups flourish.
"It is also the pattern that local police and government officials are loath to prosecute those who harm Christians or to extend protection to threatened Christian believers," he said. "In this incident, Christians recognized some police and local officials dressed in civilian clothes among those who took part in the original attack on the house church on Nov. 13."
Compass Direct News, based in Santa Ana, Calif., focuses on Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. Used by permission.
Copyright (c) 2011 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net