Converts to Christianity have been suffering an escalation of violence towards them in Vietnam, reports from Christian aid agencies have claimed.
According to Release International, the conversion to Christianity of five families in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam has provoked violent opposition from their neighbours.
The families, who became Christians in 2012, have endured constant harassment from their fellow villagers for failing to take part in the traditional religious practices of the area, which include communal sacrifices.
This interference has now turned violent, with three waves of attacks targeting the families.
The most recent surge of violence took place between 18 and 22 February. The Christians’ property was vandalised over several nights; structural damage was caused to homes, and the belongings inside were destroyed.
This onslaught was followed on 22 February by a physical assault on a number of the Christians, several of whom were left seriously injured. One family had no choice but to flee into the forest after receiving death threats.
The news follows reports from Barnabas Fund, which reported an escalation of violence around Christmas time 2012.
It claimed that anti-Christian violence is an ever-present danger for church leaders and members in Vietnam, which has been under Communist rule since 1975 and where Christians make up just 9 per cent of the population.
According to Barnabas Fund, in just two incidents from 2012, a pastor was beaten unconscious with iron bars, suffering multiple injuries, and a woman was left with a fractured skull when a congregation was attacked as they gathered for a service; dozens of others were injured.
The assaults were the work of thugs believed to have been hired by the authorities to harass and intimidate Christians.
As well as facing harassment from their communities, Christians in the Central Highlands are vulnerable to violent attack by thugs hired by the authorities to intimidate Christians.
Churches in Vietnam are also constrained by many restrictions on Christian activities, and these have been intensified by recent legislation. Pray that the Lord will enable the church in Vietnam to flourish and grow despite the persecution endured by Christians there.