The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom spoke to the release of A Dao, a pastor with the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ. In Vietnam, he was arrested on August 18, 2016 when returning from a conferencing covering East Timorese religious freedom.
USCIRF Commissioner James W. Carr said, “I am delighted that Pastor A Dao is free, even as I lament the fact that prison robbed him of four years of his life.”
Carr went on to elaborate that this release is important for the Vietnamese government because this shows some improvement in the conditions surrounding the right to freedom of religion. Potentially, this is an augury of the release of other individuals who are serious about advocacy for religious freedom as things develop on the rights front in Vietnam in the future, as others are in jail, still.
Nguyen Bac Truyen is listed as one such case. The USCIRF went on to urge the Vietnamese government to ensure local authorities protect the “freedom and safety” of A Dao if he wants to return to his home community.
A Dao, according to the USCIRF, has been advocating for fellow church members for years in terms of the ability to enjoy freedom of religion in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. However, in April of 2017, he was tried and sentenced for imprisonment for 5 years because of “helping individuals to escape abroad illegally,” which is stipulated in the Penal Code of Vietnam under Article 275.
A Dao claims that he was tortured into giving a confession. Given the five year sentence, he was not expected to be released until August 18, 2021.
“I hope that his release is a sign of Vietnam transitioning from an anti-God totalitarian state to a country in which religion in general and Christianity in particular can be openly practiced. This also shows the importance of American elected officials speaking out against oppression and promoting the importance of religious freedom throughout the world,” Representative Glenn Grothman stated, “Religion should not be a tool to oppress any person nor a stain on their character. I hope other American Congressmen familiarize themselves with the oppression that religious minorities, which in many parts of the world are Christians, have to deal with on a daily basis.”
The USCIRF 2020 Annual Report argued for the U.S. Government to support religious freedom projects in Vietnam with further funding. In June of 2020, the country update from the USCIRF spoke about “religious prisoners of conscience in Vietnam.”
With files from the USCIRF.