Vietnam (CAM/MNN) — Persecution is on the rise in Vietnam, according to Open Doors USA. The Asian nation has moved up three spots this year on their World Watch List, a compilation of 50 nations where persecution of Christians is the worst.
Amie Cotton of Christian Aid Mission, your link to indigenous missions, says they help four ministries in this country.
“They’re very upfront with how their life will be and what the costs are,” says Cotton. “It is a very difficult thing to go to these tribes and teach the Truth of the Gospel.
“But, at the same time, God is empowering these people; He is making a way.”
According to Open Doors, churches are monitored by government officials. Christians also have a very hard time registering their churches, as required by national law.
“In Vietnam today, persecution is more of an issue among the reclusive tribes in the mountains than it is in the major cities,” said Stephen Van Valkenburg, the Southeast Asia area director for Christian Aid. Read the report from Christian Aid here.
“They believe that Christianity is a religion from America, and they have been taught to view anything American as a threat.”
One ministry supported by Christian Aid reports that approximately 250 pastors have been jailed, most of which are from the Ede, Mnong, and Jorai tribes in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Without the breadwinner at home, the wives and children of these pastors struggle to survive.
The ministry wants to help 60 families by providing them with $300 each per year ($25 per month).
“The imprisoned pastors are all suffering from lack of food and medicines and are forced to perform hard labor. Several have died in prison. A couple of pastors have been released but are very weak and sick, or are disabled. They continue to live under surveillance even after their release,” the ministry leader shared in a letter to Christian Aid staff.
“We still have difficulty meeting directly with the families of other imprisoned pastors…. We distribute support to the families through pastors or church leaders who live nearby. They use different ways…as it is very dangerous for both sides.”
Other forms of persecution include prohibiting Christians from access to clean water. In some southern Vietnam communities, the government provides wells. Believers cannot use them, however, unless they deny Christ and agree to take part in the worship of their ancestors or other gods.
The situation is different in Vietnam’s towns and cities where believers have more freedom to live out their faith. Churches must be legally registered, however, and evangelistic events must be approved by the government.
While the Communist government has succeeded in creating a climate of national distrust toward “foreign religions,” it is ironic, perhaps, that some of the country’s most disenfranchised ethnic groups are the ones experiencing the most rapid move toward Christianity.
“They are open to the Gospel; they want to know more of who this Jesus is,” notes Cotton.
The Hmong are one of the largest of the 54 minority people groups scattered throughout Vietnam. There were almost no Christians among the Hmong in the late 1980s, according to Operation World. Western missionaries were kicked out of the country in 1975, leaving indigenous believers in Vietnam with the primary responsibility to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to their people.
Today, there are an estimated 400,000 Hmong believers. Those numbers continue to grow as Hmong Gospel workers make great strides to form house fellowships in some of the most isolated mountain settlements.
Other minorities are experiencing a similar openness to God’s Good News, but there remain 22 ethnic groups who do not have any known followers of Christ. To reach them, national ministries are taking tremendous strides toward translating Scripture into their heart language.
“In the next six years, one of the ministries we assist is planning to translate the New Testament in more than 20 languages,” Cotton explains.
“In 2014, they’d like to print 1000 copies of the Old Testament in the Hmong language and another 1000 copies in the Nmong language. Each copy costs approximately $8.”
“Pray for the strength and the Holy Spirit to enable believers there in Vietnam; it’s a hard road for them,” Cotton requests. “Pray for open hearts among these tribal groups that are hearing the Gospel for the first time. It’s very different than what they’re used to.
“Learning that this is the Way, the Truth, and the Life is powerful, and God is transforming lives in Vietnam.”