Viewing cable 05HANOI462

05HANOI4622005-02-25 09:57:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Hanoi
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A 
Reftels: A) HCMC 191, B) 04 Hanoi 3257, C) Hanoi 395, D) 04 
Hanoi 1987, E) Hanoi 353 
¶1. (SBU) Summary: Evangelical Church of Vietnam: North 
(ECVN) pastors have begun to engage provincial authorities 
about renovating and rebuilding churches.  The Church is 
also looking into registering some sub-chapters and opening 
a bible school.  In the future, the ECVN plans to increase 
outreach to Protestants in the Northwest Highlands and will 
include provincial authorities in these efforts.  Problems 
for Protestants in the Northwest Highlands have decreased 
recently.  The ECVN welcomes the new Instruction on 
Protestants, but believes the long-awaited implementing 
decrees of the Ordinance on Religion are more significant. 
In the absence of these decrees, some local authorities 
continue to enforce previous, more restrictive legal 
standards.  End Summary. 
¶2. (SBU) Visiting S/P Officer William Inboden continued his 
consultations with Vietnamese Protestants (started in Ho Chi 
Minh City - Ref. A) with meetings with two pastors of the 
ECVN.  On February 23, Inboden met with Pastor Nguyen Gia 
Huan of the Haiphong branch of the ECVN, together with 
members of his church board, and on February 24, he spoke 
with Pastor Au Quang Vinh of the Hanoi church.  Both Huan 
and Vinh also sit on the new leadership board of the ECVN 
(Ref. B). 
¶3. (SBU) Pastor Huan detailed the agenda of the ECVN in the 
wake of its first congress in 20 years and the formal 
acceptance of its new charter and leadership board by the 
GVN, which came at the beginning of February (Ref. C).  The 
Church has just sent members of its board to Thanh Hoa 
Province to seek permission to renovate the church there. 
Members had also gone to Nghe An Province to request land 
for a new church building.  The ECVN church there was 
destroyed by authorities several years ago.  Pastor Vinh 
informed Inboden that Nghe An provincial leaders had refused 
to meet the board members.  The ECVN will now seek to make 
progress in other areas and focus on Nghe An again later. 
In the future, the EVCN will also be seeking to get 
recognition for five "sub-chapters" of current churches, 
some of which currently lack pastors or church buildings and 
which also are not financially independent.  The Church's 
new charter allows such sub-chapters, but recognition may 
take some time due to a lack of trained pastors and 
financial pressures.  Authorities have shown "flexibility" 
in dealing with these sub-chapters so far, said Huan. 
¶4. (SBU) Both Pastors explained that the Ordinance on 
Religion, issued last June, has allowed some improvements 
for the Church (Ref. D).  For example, the ECVN held a 
conference for Protestant women in Haiphong in February. 
The Church only informed authorities of the meeting and did 
not ask their permission, as is allowed under the new 
Ordinance.  The ability to open a new Bible school, also 
permitted in the Ordinance, is very important to the EVCN. 
It has just begun the process of applying to open a school 
in Hanoi this summer and plans to enroll 50 students on a 
three-year course.  However, some provincial authorities 
have indicated they are still waiting for the release of 
implementing decrees for the Ordinance on Religion issued 
last July, which in legal terms is a more significant 
document.  In the absence of the implementing decrees, some 
authorities have continued to enforce previous, more 
restrictive regulations.  Pastor Vinh also feared that 
without the implementing decrees, some local authorities 
would begin to make their own interpretations of the 
Ordinance.  The ECVN has distributed many copies of the 
Ordinance to believers, including in the Northwest 
¶5. (SBU) Both Vinh and Huan welcomed the Prime Minister's 
new Instruction on Protestants (Ref. E).  Since the 
Instruction was released, the Haiphong church has had no 
problems from authorities, Pastor Huan declared.  If 
authorities follow the Instruction closely it will be 
positive for Protestant believers.  Some authorities have 
not yet seen the Instruction.  The most significant aspect 
to the Instruction is the acceptance of house churches that 
operate in a "routine manner," Huan said.  The ECVN has sent 
copies of the Instruction to all pastors, and the document 
was read aloud in church services so that people would be 
aware of their rights. 
¶6. (SBU) Referring to the unregistered ethnic-Hmong 
Protestants in the Northwest Highlands, Pastor Huan 
explained that dealing with their situation is a "big job." 
As of October, the ECVN has recorded 930 ethnic minority 
Protestant groups meeting in the region and hopes to begin 
registering them as new sub-chapters.  Pastor Vinh said that 
the new Instruction recognizes the existence of Protestants 
in the Northwest Highlands, something that provincial 
officials had until now denied.  The ECVN will send 
delegations to visit believers in the region and will inform 
Provincial officials of these efforts and ask their support. 
The ECVN hopes to send more Bibles to the region and to 
teach more ethnic minority church volunteers in order to end 
"errant practices" by some Hmong Protestants.  The EVCN 
still receives reports from believers of "problems" in the 
Northwest Highlands, but they are fewer in number and "are 
not as serious as in the past," Huan said.  Huan added that 
he does not expect that the authorities will ever allow all 
the groups of ethnic minority Protestants to form official 
¶7. (SBU) Looking to the future, Pastor Huan said he hopes 
the GVN will issue further guidance to authorities about how 
to recognize new churches.  This could be a standardized 
form or a time requirement after which authorities would 
have to approve or deny a request for recognition.  Pastor 
Vinh said that he thought the GVN had taken USG pressure 
into account in making its many recent positive changes.  He 
hoped the USG would not place any sanctions on Vietnam, 
saying these our only hurt "regular citizens." 
¶8. (U) In the interest of expediency, S/P William Inboden 
asked post to send this cable without his clearance.