Montagnard People of Vietnam Settle in North Carolina in Search of Religious Freedom

June 9, 2002

Source: The Washington Post

On June 9, 2002 The Washington Post featured an article on the Montagnards, "a name meaning 'Mountain People' given to indigenous tribes of the central highlands, tribes renowned for fighting alongside U.S. Special Forces during the Vietnam War... They fled a Vietnamese government crackdown on Montagnards who participated in demonstrations demanding freedom of religion and a return of homelands they say have been illegally seized for conversion into massive rubber and coffee plantations... The church where they practiced an Evangelical Protestant religion brought to the region in the 1800s by French missionaries was burned long ago by Communist forces, they say. But they clung to their religion, meeting secretly to worship two or three times a week in their neighbors' huts... Montagnards have been settling in North Carolina since the mid-1980s, drawn by the high number of U.S. Special Forces officers who live in the state. More than 3,000 Montagnards now live in North Carolina, according to relief agencies, the largest concentration outside Vietnam... More than 900 Montagnards, including 200 children, are scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks... They [will be] greeted by members of Lutheran Family Services... Eventually they will get their own apartments and help finding jobs... They will join a community of Montagnards here that has impressed relief groups with its determination for self-sufficiency and its quick mastery of job skills."