HELP A HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER & FAMILY ON THE RUN
I am Dr. Thang D. Nguyen, CEO and president of Boat People SOS (BPSOS), a US-based 501(c)3 non-profit with branches across the US and in Southeast Asia.
I recently encountered an amazing woman – she and her family of eight are now on the run because of her work of many years helping fellow Montagnard Christians was recently discovered by the government authorities. She and her family desperately need and deserve your help.
For her own safety, we can’t share her photo or her real name, but will call her by the alias Ms. Hien. Instead of her photo, I would like to share with you a drawing that typifies the simple dream shared by her fellow Montagnard Christians that recently got her into trouble with the authorities.
The drawing shows the vision of a better day for Montagnard people – they are indigenous people living in the mountains in Central Highlands of Vietnam. Montagnard is the French word for “habitants of the mountains.” Many of them have converted to Christianity. The Vietnamese government has ordered them to renounce their faith. Many of Montagnard Christians have been tortured, some to death, because they refuse to comply.
The drawing depicts the happy, peaceful life in a Montagnard village of the future, a future that the Montagnards pray for every day and night. You should see young people dancing their traditional dances, children going to school and sick people admitting to a medical clinic. You should also see Montagnard girls carrying baskets of plants and flowers to the market, and power lines that bring electricity to the village. In the background are a community house surrounded by private homes. You should also see the pristine forests that make up the ancestral territories of the Montagnards.
PERSECUTED FOR HELPING OTHERS
A Montagnard Christian herself, Ms. Hien has for years quietly documented cases of Montagnard Christians in Vietnam’s Central Highlands who were persecuted because of their religion. She has discreetly contacted international organizations and sought emergency assistance for them. When victims were tortured in prison, she helped them get urgent medical care upon their release. She delivered medicine and aid to young children in need, and acted as a community liaison and advocate for victims who could not access services from the government.
Ms. Hien did all this at high risk to herself and her family. If the Vietnamese government found out what she was doing, she would certainly face harsh punishment, including torture and imprisonment. Her family members wouldn’t be spared.
Unfortunately, the government did discover her human rights work and she and her family of eight had to leave their hometown and go into hiding. Now they live in constant fear of being arrested and they cannot return home.
Still, when I speak to Ms. Hien, her greatest concern is for the victims and families she has left behind and those she is no longer able to help at her full capacity.