Communist suspicion, tribal tensions
Christians in Vietnam are targeted by both the government and, especially in rural contexts, tribal leaders. The government has some level of tolerance for Christian groups, particularly Catholics, but if any believers are deemed to be politically active, they can be imprisoned. In places where religion and ethnic identity are closely tied, Christians who convert from traditional religions are often the victims of pressure and violence from their families and communities.
On the state level, villagers collude with local Communist authorities, beating believers, kicking them out of their villages and stoning places of worship during meetings. Local and national government authorities persecute the Christian minority through their laws, and Christian bloggers and political activists have been arrested and sentenced.
A sweeping 2018 law on religion, which looked like a possible improvement for Christians on paper, has not changed anything substantially, except to add another source of uncertainty. Tighter regulations on online communication are also restricting and limiting the freedom available to Christians.
Despite dropping by one place in the overall ranking of the top 50, the persecution score for Vietnam actually went up by two points. The score for violence and almost all spheres of life increased slightly.
How Christians are suffering
Both non-traditional Protestants and converts from indigenous religions are persecuted intensively. Estimates indicate that approximately 80 percent of the country’s Christians belong to the country’s ethnic minorities, like the Hmong, and face social exclusion, discrimination and attacks. Ethnic minority Christian children are discriminated against in schools; their medical needs also are often neglected. Some are not even allowed to attend school at all.
Non-Christian relatives of Christians are also strong persecutors, cutting family ties and denying any family inheritance. In some cases, relatives force a Christian spouse to divorce and then withhold custody of their children. Believers’ homes are sometimes destroyed, forcing them to leave their village.
In several incidents, churches and monasteries in Hanoi, Hue and Saigon have been attacked and pressured to accept demolition and the expropriation of their land, partly through the hands of government-hired thugs.
In 2018, Vietnam sentenced and jailed a number of Catholic activists, bloggers and Protestant pastors. In August, a pastor, Le Dinh Luong, was sentenced to 20 years for an alleged attempt to “overthrow the government.”
When tribal students in the central highlands converted to Christianity, their college principal threatened them with expulsion. Teachers also try to discourage Christian students, saying no one would employ them so it would be better to give up their faith altogether.
Population and number of Christian statistics: Johnson T M and Zurlo G A, eds., World Christian Database (Leiden/Boston: Brill, accessed April 2019).
Pray for Vietnam
As the Christian minority in Vietnam grows, the government works hard to monitor churches and curb the growth of Christianity; the government has issued harsh penalties against Christians who are critical of the regime. Pray for a loosening of restrictions and increased freedom.
Believers are often attacked by their village and even their family members when they choose to follow Jesus. Christian converts have shared that they experienced expulsion from their villages, the destruction of their homes and being physically beaten. Pray for provision for these believers who knowingly pay a high cost. Pray their love for Christ and each other is a witness to their families.
Crackdowns continue against Christians and ethnic minorities, especially the Hmong. The Communist regime does everything possible to keep their actions out of the international spotlight. Pray the truth would come to light and that changes would be made to ensure human rights for all minorities in Vietnam.
Pray for suitable discipleship of the many ethnic minorities coming to faith in rural areas.
Vietnam Photo Gallery
Stories from Vietnam
August 23, 2020
For Christians who are mostly day laborers and are already unable to access local services because they have been “boycotted” by their village, the pandemic has given way to another layer of persecution. Read More
August 19, 2020
Poh is a Hmong believer in north Vietnam who grew up worshiping demons. His father threatened to kill him when he refused to renounce his faith in Christ. Recently, he powerfully shared his heart and voice. Read More
July 16, 2020
A Lam* was the first one in his family to make Jesus the Lord of his life. In the face of loss and trials from the communist government, he has taken Jesus’ command to be His witness to heart. Read More