VINH, Vietnam (Morning Star News) – On the evening of May 5, pastor Dang Ba Nham, his wife, and a church elder were praying on a roadside with a woman who had recently converted to Christianity in this city on the north central coast of Vietnam.
They stood in front of the property of the new Christian, Phan Thi Thanh Huyen, to ask God for His blessing in building a new house. As they were praying, a large pickup truck with red military plates veered across the street and ploughed squarely into the small group.
Pastor Nham was dragged about 15 meters and died at the scene. He was 56.
The new believer, Huyen, died of injuries the next day. Pastor Nham’s wife underwent complex surgery for serious neck and upper body injuries on May 9; she is weak, and her recovery uncertain. The church elder, Hoang Ngoc Hung, was transported to Hanoi by the military and has also undergone serious surgery. An attending doctor said his chances of surviving are no more than 20 percent.
Serving the Vietnam Good News Mission Church, Pastor Nham was an effective evangelist in Nghe An, Thanh Hoa, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh – probably the four provinces in Vietnam most hostile to the gospel, and the location of regular incidents of persecution. He had been recently warned to stop sharing his faith.
Mrs. Huyen had also faced strong opposition from relatives.
No one believes the trajectory of the vehicle across an oncoming lane directly into a group of people standing together was an accident, although some church reports published on the Internet use the term to avoid trouble. Staged “accidents” are a common way for authorities in Vietnam to take care of those they deem trouble-makers.
The funeral of Pastor Nham was held on May 8 at his church in Vinh. It was crowded to overflowing. The speaker at the very moving funeral service informed Morning Star News that some 30 young people stood in response to his question, “Who will take his place?” In this way, he added, those attending also received amazing courage and blessing to accompany their tears and deep grief in a place where being a follower of Jesus can carry a high cost.
Christians from all over Vietnam and Vietnamese around the world sent their condolences and some gifts to console the bereaved and help the injured.
Leaders of the Vietnam Good News Church reported their concerns about the accident to government officials, but redress in such cases is rare in Vietnam.
Earlier this year, pastor K’sor Kiem of an independent Montagnard church In Gia Lai Province died of injuries he received at the hands of police during a brutal 2015 Christmas Eve interrogation in which he refused to deny his Christian faith.
On May 19, ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam on May 22, Vietnam in a small gesture released the elderly and ailing activist, Thaddeus Nguyen Van Ly, from a cumulative prison term of more than two decades.
Among the 100 or so human rights and democracy advocates remaining in prison is prominent evangelical attorney Nguyen Van Dai. Contrary to Vietnamese law, the activist has been held for five months without charges or trial and denied any visits by his wife.