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More than 100 Vietnamese pastors of house churches have been imprisoned for refusing to join a central official church. The government-controlled "official church" wants to combine multiple house churches in order to control and diminish the influence of the thriving independent churches. A particular group of house churches representing a total membership of 3,000 was ordered to merge congregations and meet in a building that can hold only about 500 people.

One of the Vietnamese ministry leaders, Pastor Su, who himself served a prison term between 1975 and 1984, expressed great concern over the new ruling: "If the pastors refuse to sign a paper saying they would combine, and that their gatherings would not go over 500 people, they will be beaten or thrown into prison."

The latest pastors to be imprisoned (more than 60 of them) joined another 42 church leaders who are still behind bars, even though the 15-year sentences they received in 2001 for practising their faith have been completed. Despite the risks, Pastor Su and his ministry team are continuing with their Christian mission among the villages of Vietnam.

In order for vitally needed ministry to endure, missionaries are trained secretly and Bible study groups move from village to village so they cannot be tracked down. Learn more about the challenges facing believers in Vietnam by reviewing our country report.

We can thank the Lord for the tremendous witnessing efforts and steadfast faith demonstrated by the persecuted Christians of Vietnam. May these church leaders and their congregation members not be intimidated by the governmental stipulations but rather encouraged to stand firm on the promises of God -- relying on Him for the wisdom, diplomacy and favour required to deal appropriately with the authorities. Pray for radical changes to take place in the hearts of the Communist leaders, especially those who are responsible for implementing and administering Vietnam's laws, so that the work of the Gospel will continue to thrive.