Name: Pastor A Dao
Area of Origin: Vietnam (Ethnic Ha Lang Montagnard)
Background: A Dao is a Protestant pastor of the Montagnard Evangelical Church of Christ advocating for religious freedom for his fellow church members in Vietnam’s Central Highlands and elsewhere.
Reason for his arrest: In August 2016, he attended the conference on Freedom of Religion in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN Civil Society Conference and ASEAN People’s Forum in East Timor. After that he got arrested and on April 28, 2017, he was sentenced to 5 years in prison for “helping individuals to escape abroad illegally” under Article 91 of the country’s Penal Code. He denied the charge and claimed his innocence.
Current Status as of February 2019:
- September 2020: It has been confirmed that Pastor A Dao was formally released from prison on September 18, 2020 after just over four years in prison since his most recent arrest on August 18, 2016. USCIRF Commissioner Carr, and recently US Representative Glenn Grothman, have tirelessly advocated for his release. Below are statements by Carr and Grothman regarding Pastor A Dao’s release:
- “I am delighted that Pastor A Dao is free, even as I lament the fact that prison robbed him of four years of his life. I hope this release is a sign that the Vietnamese government is serious about improving religious freedom conditions and will release other individuals detained for their religious freedom advocacy, including Nguyen Bac Truyen. In addition, USCIRF urges the government to take steps to ensure that local authorities respect A Dao’s freedom and safety should he choose to return to his home village.” – James A. Carr, USCIRF Commissioner
- “This is a hallmark day for both Pastor A Dao and Vietnam. Congratulations to Pastor Dao on being able to return to his family. I would like to meet him some day. I hope that his release is a sign of Vietnam transitioning from an anti-God totalitarian state to a country in which religion in general and Christianity in particular can be openly practiced. This also shows the importance of American elected officials speaking out against oppression and promoting the importance of religious freedom throughout the world. Religion should not be a tool to oppress any person nor a stain on their character. I hope other American Congressmen familiarize themselves with the oppression that religious minorities, which in many parts of the world are Christians, have to deal with on a daily basis.” – Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06)
- February 2019: The victim is serving his prison sentence and his health has deteriorated as a result of the harsh treatment typically reserved for prisoners of conscience, and it is believed he is a victim of torture. In a new report, it is revealed that Pastor A Dao’s wife had to sell their land and send their two children to live with different relatives.