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The first blow that struck Hue’s head was so painful she almost fainted. Further brutal blows sent a clear message: these thugs meant business. They unleashed a terrifying attack on the young female Bible college students until they feared for their lives.

Hue wept only at her horrific memories as she described what happened. At 11pm on 9 June 2014, one hundred men forced their way into the ground floor of the Mennonite Bible College in Ho Chi Minh City. An estimated 300 more stood outside, ready to do whatever it took to bring everyone out for interrogation.

Seventy-six pastors and leaders, staying at the college for a training seminar, were stripped of their shirts and forced to stand with their hands on their heads as the attackers sought to intimidate them with beatings.

The intruders found the women’s dormitory, where they shouted at, kicked and shoved the students downstairs. As Hue retold the event, she said, “We whispered to each other to keep quiet and looked to the Lord and prayed.”

Anh, another female student, told us, “This was the first time I had ever experienced persecution and I was so frightened, but began to pray to God. I felt the Lord remind me through the Scriptures: don’t be afraid of the person who can kill your body but cannot kill your soul. I started singing praises to God. They slapped me as they took me to the police station but I still sung so they slapped me even more. My ear is still painful and my jaw is so sore I can’t even eat rice properly. But through all of this I will not stop praising my God.”

After two hours, trucks arrived and the believers were herded out past a gauntlet of thugs, who struck them fiercely with batons. They were taken to a police station, where the men were separated from the women.

Hue said, “They pushed us into a room that was totally dark. We groped for each other and held on tightly. We heard people enter the room. The sister I was holding on to cried out as she was struck from behind. I held on to her and then felt a blow on my own back. They struck us all over our bodies. We did not know where they were or when the next blow would come. It was horrific.

“One by one we were taken out of the room and they made us write down our home town and our family names. Then we were released to find our own way back to the Bible college. Once back at the college, we waited for any news of the men, who still had not returned. We were all in much pain and some of us tried to sleep but we found it difficult. Why all of this had happened was still a mystery to us all.”

We asked the young students if their experience had given them an understanding of what persecution really is. Their answers were insightful.

Anh answered, “Because we’re Christians, people hate us and they beat us; I experienced this even when I was at school. When I hear about persecution throughout the world I am compelled to pray for my brothers and sisters so that we can stand united in the Lord.”

“After this event, my parents asked me if I wanted to come home,” added Hue. “I said that I want to stay and finish my course. They were encouraged and my father told me that if we are to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, we must be ready to be persecuted, we must not lose heart or our faith but stand strong in Christ.”

Pastor Quang, Principal of the Mennonite Bible College, explained the reason for the attack. “The authorities think I am one of the leaders of the major protests supporting China’s oil exploration. They also say I am forming an association of prisoners and have written to Vietnam’s president, appealing for long-term prisoners to be released early. On that issue they are correct. I told them I’m not against the government, but I am making a peaceful appeal because my heart is for the people. I have been visiting a lot of ex-prisoners because I’m a pastor. They ask me to pray for them. That is why the police attacked our Bible college.”

Pastor Quang reported that seven pastors and 23 students needed medical attention for the injuries they sustained during the assault.

VOM Australia was able to send emergency medical funds to cover the costs for these brothers and sisters. The damage to the college was extensive, with doors ripped off their hinges, windows broken and laptops and computer drives smashed. Personal Bibles were also confiscated. “I am thankful that VOM Australia assisted us to repair the building so that we could continue teaching the students,” he said.