UPDATED AT 2:19 AM EST 09/13/22
Vietnamese police and government authorities are trying to crack down on a religious group that is gaining popularity in the country’s northern provinces.
On Monday, state-controlled media quoted Hai Phong city police as saying the “Jesus Church” is operating in many localities without permission. The government’s Committee for Religious Affairs has yet to recognize the “Church of Jesus” as a religious organization, news organizations said.
All religious groups in Vietnam must obtain government approval, otherwise they are banned.
The “Church of Jesus” is concentrated in provinces such as Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Son La, Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Thanh Hoa.
It was founded about five years ago, according to the Ministry of Public Security, which called it a “bad religion”, saying it was concerned about the church’s rapid growth among the Hmong community.
The ethnic group originally followed animist beliefs, but many Hmong have converted to Christianity in the 20th and 21st centuries.
The Hai Phong City Police Department said there were about 100 Hmong people living there and, although they were not followers of the “Church of Jesus”, they had issued a warning for try to prevent them from joining the religion.
Police say “Jesus Church” was founded by a man calling himself David Her whose real name is Ho Cha Sung. The department said he was a Hmong from Xiangkhoang province in Laos, currently living in California.
David Her identifies himself as a messenger of Jesus, who he believes will return to protect the Hmong people, according to the Baogiaothong news site. He said that God had given the land to the Hmong but they were not united, so their land was taken by other groups, the site said, adding that according to his words, God had urged the Hmong to return to Laos to create a state.
In April, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released a proposal to put Vietnam back on the list of countries of particular concern for non-respect of religious freedom, saying the government continues to persecute independent religious communities.
This story has been updated to include information about David Her.