Vietnamese Church Growing Despite Ongoing Pressure

The Church is alive and thriving in Vietnam. According to the government’s own census, the number of protestant Christians today is around 1 million, up from 410,000 in 1999. Churches themselves report booming membership, with church officials put the numbers  nearer to 2 million, and Sunday services often spill out of the doors as new members crowd in.
<p>Church leaders in Vietnam fear stricter regulation will make building new house churches harder in the future. ( photo)</p>

However, while Protestantism is one of the 38 religions officially recognised by the Vietnamese government, its activities are frequently banned outright by local authorities. Most evangelism is considered illegal and members report that their activities are monitored and curtailed. In rural areas, particularly in the highlands, repression is rife. A report published in June by Human Rights Watch outlined a systemic persecution of ethnic minority Christians who “have been subjected to constant surveillance and other forms of intimidation, arbitrary arrest and mistreatment in security force custody.”Even in the relatively open Ho Chi Minh City, Christians have faced opposition. Pastors and church members are monitored and have been detained for handing out tracts.

Those who are members of churches not officially recognised by the government have faced particular pressure. In January, a prominent Mennonite pastor who has long been a government target was brutally attacked and the perpetrators never arrested. The previous year, his Bible college was ransacked on seven different occasions.

Hoang *, a house church pastor, said despite a general atmosphere of openness in Ho Chi Minh City, even he had been detained on numerous occasions.

“One time I was spreading religion in a nearby area and the police ‘invited me’ and gave me a speech for four hours. They say that you can’t spread religion and I said: people ask so I answer … This happened three times,” he said.

While the situation has generally improved, he said, government control is still very evident. However, even though groups like Open Doors have listed Vietnam as a dire nation in which to be Christian, there is the sense that the government is fighting a losing battle.

According to another young pastor working in Ho Chi Minh City: “Every year, from central Vietnam to the southern tip, there’s at least 20,000 new Christian converts. God has helped Vietnam to develop Christianity really well.”

*Names have been changed for security reasons.

  • Give thanks for the growth of the Vietnamese Church, and that, despite opposition from the government, Christians continue to share their faith and spread the Gospel in this nation.
  • Give thanks for many new Christians each year. Pray for them as they grow in their faith, for resources for discipleship and for them to grow with a strong  and deep faith.
  • Pray for protection for Christians in Vietnam, especially Church leaders who are often targeted by the government.
  • Pray for the Government in Vietnam, that their fear of the Church will diminish and that they will come to allow freedom of belief and worship without fear.

Acts 5 vs 14: “ Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women


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