A mob of hundreds of people have brutally attacked Vietnamese Mennonites including their leader Nguyen Hong Quang, 20 church leaders and Bible college students, a Christian advocacy group reports.
More than 300 plain clothes and security forces members stormed the church complex at night, and beat up the residents under the pretext of an "administrative search," the Catholic Ucan news agency reported June 27.
Release International, a Christian advocacy group, said the attack lasted for two hours in My Phuoc, Binh Duong province, Vietnam in the first week of June.
The attackers reportedly included hired thugs, Communist Party officials, and members of the police force, Christian Headlines reported June 19.
Release International said Quang had been "holding a pastors retreat and summer school for ethnic minority Christians" when "several hundred people, including police, other officials and 'hired hands' broke down the gate.
"The building was pelted with rocks and its gate and doors were torn off," the advocacy group said.
Vietnam officially tolerates Christianity, but only recognizes officially sanctioned churches.
These churches are prohibited from reaching out to children and doing open evangelism.
Christians including members of the officially sanctioned Roman Catholic Church have reported harassment for years.
Quang has refused to submit his congregations to government regulations.
HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENSE
He is known for his human rights defense of Vietnamese minorities, suffered injuries to his head and chest and was left with broken teeth.
The pastor is not new to persecution.
He and five other leaders, known as the "Mennonite Six," were imprisoned for "resisting officers of the law" in 2004.
In 2010, Quang was beaten unconscious as officials bulldozed his home and a Bible college he ran in Ho Chi Minh City.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said that the Mennonites have been under close scrutiny because of the outspoken and confrontational style of Quang.
He has also publicly criticized the arrests of religious and political dissidents, defended the rights of landless farmers, and used the internet to promote religious freedom.
Before his 2004 arrest, he said in a message to a friend, "The Church is now on stormy seas but the boat still goes out. The Lord enables us to row together. Be at peace. I ask you and the Church to pray for us."
These churches are prohibited from reaching out children and doing open evangelism.
For years, Vietnamese authorities have been accused of suppression of Protestants and other religious groups.
In 2005, two Hoa Hao Buddhist brothers were arrested after failing to give authorities a list of guests invited to a family ceremony.
Police said that the men had been arrested for storing and spreading books and materials related to the outlawed Hoa Hoa Buddhist sect.
Mennonites are church communities belonging to Anabaptist denominations named after Menno Simons (1496–1561) and they have Swiss roots. They are Protestants who believe in re-baptism of converts from other Christian denominations.