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Cablegate: Seventh Day Adventists Celebrate First General Assembly

VZCZCXRO5500
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHNH
DE RUEHHM #0967 3011132
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 271132Z OCT 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5073
INFO RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 3390
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY PRIORITY 5302

UNCLAS HO CHI MINH CITY 000967

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KIRF PHUM VM
SUBJECT: SEVENTH DAY ADVENTISTS CELEBRATE FIRST GENERAL ASSEMBLY

1. (U) Summary: Religious leaders and officials gathered at the
Seventh Day Adventist's main HCMC church on October 23 to
celebrate the denomination's first General Assembly since it
became nationally registered in December 2006. Government
leaders praised the church's moral and humanitarian message
while foreign representatives focused on the church's global
mission. End summary.

Officials Praise Protestant Values
----------------------------------
2. (U) National Committee for Religious Affairs (CRA) Deputy
Director Nguyen Thanh Xuan, HCMC CRA Director Huynh Ngoc Thanh,
HCMC Fatherland Front Vice President Tran Trung Tin, and
Communist Party Propaganda Section Deputy Director Tran Ngoc Bao
were among the GVN leaders present at the Seventh Day Adventist
(SDA) General Assembly. National and HCMC Ministry of Public
Security Officials and several provincial CRA representatives
also attended, and the church received a congratulatory letter
from President Nguyen Minh Triet.

3. (SBU) CRA Deputy Director Xuan reviewed the statistics
proving a productive relationship between CRA and Protestant
groups in recent years, including more than 1,000 registrations
nation-wide, the opening of several theological schools and the
printing of Bibles in ethnic minority languages. Xuan said
1,200 Protestant congregations are now operating in the Central
Highlands "without difficulty" and pledged to continue the CRA's
work of "creating favorable conditions for religious activities
in Vietnam." He praised Protestants for promoting important
values like diligence, thrift, charity and adherence to the law.
HCMC CRA Director Thanh also expressed his hope that the
Seventh Day Adventists would "follow the Ten Commandments and
national laws and regulations."

Adventists Emphasize Worldwide Mission
--------------------------------------
4. (SBU) The SDA's South Asia Pacific Secretary, Rev. Joshua
Wone Mok, said Vietnam's recognition of the Seventh Day
Adventists and other Protestant groups was in keeping with the
country's growing role as a regional and global actor. He noted
that Vietnam's Seventh Day Adventists are now part of a global
community of 16 million followers in 203 countries. Australian
Rev. Ronald Walter said the main mission of the church was
non-political and focused on carrying out good works through the
denomination's network of hospitals, schools and Adventist
Development and Relief Agencies (ADRA). Rev. Walter added that
he hoped the SDA's new status in Vietnam would make it easier
for the church to acquire additional properties. Coming full
circle, Vietnamese American Rev. Le Cong Giao expressed his joy
over returning to celebrate the revival of the SDA church after
having left during the war.

Historical Note
---------------
5. (U) The Seventh Day Adventists came to Vietnam in 1916 and
established their first church in 1929. They had about 4,500
followers in 1975, but when the war ended most of the SDA's
leadership left Vietnam with the exception of ten pastors.
1976-1985 were difficult years for the church and most
activities were held in secret, but the church continued to
attract new followers. By 1985, they had 10,000 followers with
80 meeting points. Since 2006, they have baptized approximately
400-500 new members annually, and now have six main
congregations and 121 meeting points (81 registered)
representing 13,397 followers throughout the country.
Approximately 74 per cent of the denomination's adherents are
ethnic minorities. The General Assembly is usually the last
step to take place before a denomination receives national-level
recognition.

6. (SBU) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.

FAIRFAX

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