Vietnam’s constitution states that citizens “can follow any religion or follow none” and “all religions are equal before the law”. However, its communist government views any religion with suspicion, especially Christianity, which is perceived as “Western”.
Most Vietnamese people are “culturally Buddhist”. Some follow Cao Dai, a strongly nationalistic religion that combines elements of Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.
The 2018 Law on Belief and Religion requires authorities to protect religious freedom, but bans religious activity that could “harm social order and/or national unity”. Registration is required for religious groups and activities including worship, preaching, teaching and publishing.
Christians make up around 7% of the population. Persecution varies across the country because it largely comes from local or provincial authorities – although central government often fails to intervene.
More than half of Vietnamese Christians are from ethnic minorities. The Montagnard people, from the Central Highlands, traditionally followed animistic beliefs and began to convert to Christianity in increasing numbers in the 1950s and 60s. The Hmong people, living mainly in the north-western Highlands, were led to Christ in the 1990s by an evangelistic radio station broadcasting in the Hmong language from Manila.
Both have endured persecution. Thousands have been refused household registration documents or identity cards, rendering them unable to access healthcare or schooling. Converts are kept under surveillance, intimidated, beaten and held in arbitrary detention.
Officials frequently deny permits to churches and summon leaders of house churches and new converts to “criticism sessions” in an attempt to make them publicly deny their faith. Unregistered house churches are sometimes closed and the property of Christians confiscated.
In the recent pandemic evangelical Christians in Ho Chi Minh City were accused of creating an outbreak of Covid. In a call to prayer, a church leader wrote, “Evangelical Christians in Vietnam are severely misunderstood, discriminated against and deeply hurt.”
Pray that Christians in Vietnam will stand firm in their faith, knowing that the Lord is their ever present help in times of trouble. Pray that the authorities will allow Christians to worship freely.