Vietnamese authorities call ‘Jesus Church’ in northern provinces ‘bad religion’

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UPDATED AT 2:19 AM EST ON 9/13/22

Vietnamese police and government authorities are trying to crack down on a religious group that is growing in popularity in the country’s northern provinces.

On Monday, state-controlled media quoted Hai Phong police as saying the “Jesus Church” is operating without permission in many places. The Government Committee on Religious Affairs has not yet recognized the “Jesus Church” as a religious organization, the news organizations said.

All religious groups in Vietnam must get permission from the government or they will be banned.

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The “Jesus Church” is concentrated in provinces, including Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Son La, Lao Cai, Yen Bai, and Thanh Hoa.

It was established about five years ago, according to the Ministry of Public Security, which called it an “evil religion,” and said it was concerned about the church’s rapid growth among the Hmong community.

The ethnic group originally followed animist beliefs, but many Hmong converted to Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Hai Phong City police said about 100 Hmong people live there and although they were not followers of the “Jesus Church”, they had issued a warning to try and stop them from joining the religion.

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Police said the “Jesus Church” was founded by a man who calls himself David Her and whose real name is Ho Cha Sung. The department said he is a Hmong from Xiangkhoang Province in Laos, who currently lives in California.

David Her identifies himself as a messenger from Jesus, who will return to protect the Hmong people, according to the Baogiaothong news site. He said God gave the Hmong land, but they were not united, so their land was taken by other groups, the site said, adding that its claims that God urged the Hmong to return to Laos to establish a state to target.

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In April, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) proposed to put Vietnam back on the list of countries of special concern for disrespecting religious freedom, saying the government will continue to persecute independent religious communities.

This story has been updated with background information on David Her.