Bahá'í Faith in Vietnam
The introduction of the Bahá'í Faith in Vietnam first occurred in the 1920s, not long after French Indochina was mentioned by `Abdu'l-Bahá as a potential destination for Bahá'í teachers. After a number of brief visits from travelling teachers throughout the first half of the 20th century, the first Bahá'i group in Vietnam was established in Saigon in 1954, with the arrival of Shirin Fozdar, a Bahá'í teacher from India. The 1950s and 1960s were marked by periods of rapid growth, mainly in South Vietnam; despite the ongoing war affecting the country, the Bahá'í population surged to around 200,000 adherents by 1975. After the end of the war, Vietnam was reunified under a communist government, who proscribed the practice of the religion from 1975 to 1992, leading to a sharp drop in community numbers. Relations with the government gradually improved, however, and in 2007 the Bahá'í Faith was officially registered, followed by its full legal recognition a year later. As of 2011, it was reported that the Bahá'í community comprised about 8,000 followers.
‘Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan 
The earliest association of Vietnam with the Bahá'í Faith was a brief mention of French Indochina—of which the country was then a part—as a destination for Bahá'í teachers in ‘Abdu'l-Bahá's Tablets of the Divine Plan. The specific tablet in question was written on 11 April 1916, but was delayed in being presented in the United States until 1919, after the end of World War I and the Spanish flu. These tablets were translated and presented by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab on 4 April 1919, and published in Star of the West magazine on 12 December 1919.
"The moment this divine Message is carried forward by the American believers from the shores of America and is propagated through the continents of Europe, of Asia, of Africa and of Australasia, and as far as the islands of the Pacific, this community will find itself securely established upon the throne of an everlasting dominion..., if some teachers go to other islands and other parts, such as the continent of Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, also to Japan, Asiatic Russia, Korea, French Indochina, Siam, Straits Settlements, India, Ceylon and Afghanistan, most great results will be forthcoming."
‘Abdu’l-Bahá had at one time seriously considered a voyage to India and Indochina, as reported by Shoghi Effendi in 1919, although whether such a voyage would have included the territory that would become known as Vietnam is not known.
First contact 
The first Bahá'í to visit Vietnam is likely to have been Hippolyte Dreyfus-Barney, one of the first Bahá'ís of France, who undertook a number of travels around the globe at the request of 'Abdu'l-Bahá. After an initial planned visit was aborted in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War I, Dreyfus-Barney arrived in what was then French Indochina in 1920, visiting Saigon and Hanoi. Four years later in May 1924, prominent Bahá'í travelling teacher Martha Root paid a week-long visit to Saigon. During her stay, she promoted the message and principles of the religion to a number of newspapers, making friends with one Madame Boeuf, editor of an English section in "L'Information de l'Extrême Orient". Boeuf was sympathetic to the principles of the Bahá'í religion, and published a number of favorable French-language articles. Several other newspapers also printed articles describing Bahá'í principles, in French, Chinese and Vietnamese. A public lecture was arranged with the help of the Governor, who, when approached, "himself telephoned the President of the largest school" to communicate his approval. Besides these initiatives, Root made calls to nineteen schools, societies and individuals in Saigon.
Establishment and growth 
In 1951, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of India, Pakistan and Burma adopted the goal of sending pioneers to a number of cities throughout Africa and Southeast Asia, including Saigon, in response to the summons of Shoghi Effendi, then head of the Bahá'í Faith. In a letter to an individual in September of that year, Shoghi Effendi reported that there were Bahá’ís in Indochina at that time. In February 1954, Shirin Fozdar, a Bahá'í from India who had been a member of the National Spiritual Assembly there, went to Saigon to establish the religion in Indochina. The first Vietnamese Bahá'í was Pham Huu Chu, a professor living in Saigon. By the following year, there were enough Bahá'ís in Saigon to elect the country's first Local Spiritual Assembly there, on 21 April 1955. The Assembly was officially recognized by the government of South Vietnam on 20 September. Promotion of the religion in Central Vietnam led to the establishment of Vietnam's second Spiritual Assembly in the village of Trừng Giang,[nb 1] Quảng Nam province, in April 1957. Eight more Spiritual Assemblies were established in 1958, bringing the total to ten. Of these, most were in Central Vietnam, including those of Da Nang and Quang Ngai. Also established in that year was the Bahá'í community of Phuoc Long, where the first Bahá'í school of South Vietnam was established; several other schools were established in Central Vietnam.
In 1958 Tuskegee Airman Dempsey Morgan and his wife Adrienne, both Bahá'ís, came to Vietnam, and over succeeding years helped establish administrative procedures among the Local Spiritual Assemblies of Vietnam. During their stay in Vietnam, the Morgans also identified Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'ís Faith, with the Maitreya Buddha, who in the Buddhist tradition is the successor to Gautama Buddha and who is to appear on Earth, achieve complete enlightenment, and teach the pure dharma. During this period of growth a number of Buddhist monks also become Baha'is. In 1959 the South Vietnam government arrested the entire Saigon Local Spiritual Assembly and forced the Morgan family to leave. They were able to visit Saigon when Rúhíyyih Khanum visited in 1961 and were able to move back to Saigon before the end of the year. There was also a local newsletter the Baha'i News in publication by then.
From 1957 to 1963 the Bahá'í community in South Vietnam had more than tripled (including among the Koho, Thổ, Annamese, and Cham peoples) and several schools were established. In 1957 the Bahá'í marriage certificate was recognized in Vietnam. In 1962 16 Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies formed, and by 1963 there were more than 40 (and perhaps over 100) Spiritual Assemblies in South Vietnam. By 1963 there were also 6 local Bahá'í Centers or Haziratu'l-Quds, including in Saigon and Da Nang, and more lands had been bought for future centers. As the number of Bahá'í Local Spiritual Assemblies increased, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Vietnam was established in 1964. One report estimated over 20,000 Bahá'ís nationwide by mid-1964, giving it the "third largest membership among the major religions" in South Vietnam at that time.
As the Vietnam war continued, there were a number of American Bahá'ís who were stationed in Vietnam, but following the Bahá'í teaching of the sacredness of all life and of obedience to one's government, Bahá'ís would request to avoid being placed in a position to take the life of another, and thus American Bahá'ís served as clerks and medics as non-combatants. By April 1973, 687 Local Spiritual Assemblies had been formed, and Bahá'ís could be found in 1,685 localities. By 1975, there were an estimated 200,000 Bahá'ís in South Vietnam, and the Bahá'í community and its institutions were still experiencing growth.
Opposition and proscription 
South Vietnam 
Although the Bahá'í community generally held a positive relationship with the government of South Vietnam, there is evidence of sporadic opposition at different levels during this period. One account describes government harassment of the Vietnamese Bahá'ís around 1958–59, including the imprisonment of the entire Spiritual Assembly of Saigon. On 21 April 1963, Bui Van Luong, then Interior Minister to Ngô Đình Diệm, formally prohibited Bahá'ís from pursuing "any religious activities in Central Vietnam and the mountainous provinces." Seven months later, the Diệm government was overthrown, and the prohibition of Bahá'í activities was annulled. An account reported in a Swiss Bahá'í newsletter in February 1964 claimed that Bahá'ís in Vietnam had been subject to harassment for over seven years leading up to Diệm's ouster.
As communist rule was established in Vietnam after the end of the war, open practice of the Bahá'í Faith was proscribed. In a 1978 report, the Universal House of Justice noted that "circumstances beyond the control of the Bahá'ís" had hindered progress in recent years, and that "an administrative committee [had] been appointed to function on behalf of the National Spiritual Assembly". In a message sent a year later, it reported that Vietnam was among "those countries where the Bahá'í Administration cannot operate or has had to be disbanded". Community numbers dropped sharply during this time as thousands of Bahá'ís moved as refugees to the United States and other countries. Beginning in 1992, Bahá'ís were allowed to meet in unofficial meeting halls to practice their religion quietly, although difficulties persisted. In 2000, Bahá'ís in Da Nang were reportedly unable to obtain approval of an application for registration of official religious activities, and in 2001, the Vietnamese government reportedly turned down an attempt by the national Bahá'í community to register its activities because they "had not yet met the administrative criteria for registration."
The difficulties encountered by the Bahá'í community were far from unique. While Vietnam had ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR) which has provisions for religious freedom (Article 18), and its own Constitution upholds religious freedom,[nb 2] the U.S. State Department reported in its 2001 International Religious Freedom Report that the Vietnamese government "continued to restrict" certain organized activities of religious groups, noting that "many of these restrictive powers lie principally with provincial or city people's committees, and local treatment of religious persons varied widely." An analyst notes:
"Only religions that have been officially recognised have legal rights. To be authorised, the group must obtain Government approval of its leadership and overall scope of its activities. Failure to comply leads to persecution. The Government retains supervisory control of authorised religions. All religious organisations have to be affiliated with the Communist Party of Vietnam and an organisation called the Patriotic Front [i.e. Vietnamese Fatherland Front]. Government permission is required for many religious practices, including general meetings, charitable activities, operation of schools and ordination and promotion of clergy and travel outside the country. Religious training must be approved by the State and must promote the policy of “socialism”. State approved churches are also required to promote Government policies on a wide range of issues."
In 1996, the Universal House of Justice sent a message to Bahá'ís in a number of Southeast Asian countries, particularly calling "the sorely tried, steadfast and devoted friends" in Vietnam to demonstrate to the authorities and to their leaders that "Bahá'ís, obedient and loyal to their governments, desire but the prosperity of their nations and the upliftment of their peoples." Despite the ongoing difficulties they encountered, the Bahá'í community's situation gradually continued to improve in the years that followed. In May 2004, Bahá'ís in Ho Chi Minh City were allowed to hold a quiet ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Baha'i Faith in the country. By 2006, Bahá'í community leaders reported having "good relations with authorities", and that the Bahá'ís "appeared to be able to practice their faith without significant harassment."
End of proscription and recent developments 
The first signs of the end of the legal proscription ending came in November 2006 when the US State Department reported that restrictions were being eased. The Vietnamese Bahá'í community was registered nationally in early 2007 after receiving a certificate of operation from the government’s Committee for Religious Affairs. Following a year-long probationary period, the National Spiritual Assembly was elected and its charter adopted on 21 March 2008, at a national congress in Ho Chi Minh City coinciding with the Bahá'í holy day of Naw-Rúz. The event was attended by over 250 delegates and visitors. The National Spiritual Assembly received its certificate of national recognition in July 2008. Individual local spiritual assemblies must be registered as well.
Having just emerged from a several decades of proscription, the Bahá'í community of Vietnam is slowly returning to a normal pace of activities. There are some signs of large-scale growth from the 50s–60s resuming. Although the 2005 World Christian Database continues to estimate the Bahá'í population of Vietnam well above 300,000, the U.S. State Department estimated the Bahá'í population at around 8,000 in 2011.
In April 2011, the Baha’i Community of Vietnam held its fourth National Congress in the city of Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan Province. More than 300 members of the Baha’i Faith gathered for the annual election of their national nine-member religious administrative board known as the National Spiritual Assembly. During the gathering, for the first time the government allowed Baha’i representatives from other regional nations to join the event and actively participate. Members of the community were joined by representatives from the Baha’i Advisory Board for Asia and its Board of Trustees for Southeast Asia.
See also 
Notes and references 
- Now Hoà Giang village, Điện Trung commune, Điện Bàn District, Quảng Nam province.
- "The citizen shall enjoy freedom of belief or religion; he can follow any religion or none. All religions are equal before the law. The places of worship of all faiths and religions are protected by the law. No one can violate freedom of belief and of religion; nor can anyone misuse belief and religion to contravene the law and State policies." Article 70, Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. 1992.
- `Abdu'l-Bahá (1991) [1916–17]. Tablets of the Divine Plan (Paperback ed.). Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. pp. 40–42. ISBN 0877432333.
- "Small Baha'i And Muslim Communities Grow in Hanoi" (Diplomatic cable). Embassy of the United States of America in Vietnam. 12 September 2007. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (14 September 2007). "International Religious Freedom Report — Vietnam". United States State Department. Archived from the original on 13 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2011). "International Religious Freedom Report—Vietnam". United States State Department. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Abbas, 'Abdu'l-Bahá; Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, trans. and comments (April 1919). Tablets, Instructions and Words of Explanation.
- The Universal House of Justice (1978). 16. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre. pp. 536–537. ISBN 0853980756. Unknown parameter
|author=suggested) (help); Missing or empty
- "Hippolyte Dreyfus, apôtre d'Abdu'l-Bahá" [Hippolyte Dreyfus, Disciple of 'Abdu'l-Bahá]. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of France. 2000-09. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
- M. R. Garis (1983). Martha Root: Lioness at the threshold. Baha'i Publishing Trust. ISBN 0877431841.
- Root, Martha (May 1924). "A Trip to Indo-China on a Cargo Boat". Star of the West 15 (2): 40.
- Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. October 1951. p. 9. ISSN 0195-9212.
- "Japan Will Turn Ablaze!". Bahá’í Publishing Trust of Japan. 1992. Retrieved 2012-09-24.
- Sarwal, Anil (1989). "Shirin Fozdar: An Outstanding Pioneer". Bahá'í Digest. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. February 1962. p. 14. ISSN 0195-9212.
- "Le comité régional Bahai a offert hier soir un lunch a l'occasion de l'anniversaire du fondateur de cette religion". Vietnam Presse. 21 October 1954.
- Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. July 1955. p. 5. ISSN 0195-9212.
- Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. September 1957. p. 4. ISSN 0195-9212.
- "Tìm hiểu về đạo Baha’i ở Việt Nam" [Learn about the Baha'i religion in Vietnam]. Central Committee of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front. Retrieved 2012-10-09.
- "Progress of the Faith in Viet-Nam". Baha'i News Letter (National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of India, Pakistan & Burma) (85). 1958-08.
- Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. December 1958. p. 8. ISSN 0195-9212.
- Etter-Lewis, Gwendolyn; Thomas, Richard Walter (2006). Lights of the Spirit: Historical Portraits of Black Bahá'ís in North America 1898–2000. Baha'i Publishing Trust. pp. 113–119. ISBN 1-931847-26-6.
- Momen, Moojan (2 March 2002). "Buddhism and the Baha'i Faith". Baha'i Library Online. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Rabbani, R. (Ed.) (1992). The Ministry of the Custodians 1957–1963. Bahá'í World Centre. pp. 138, 140, 360. ISBN 0-85398-350-X.
- Effendi, Shoghi (1971). Messages to the Bahá'í World, 1950–1957. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 107. ISBN 0-87743-036-5.
- Compiled by the Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land (1964). The Bahá'í Faith 1844–1963. p. 91.
- Compiled by Hands of the Cause Residing in the Holy Land. "The Bahá'í Faith: 1844–1963: Information Statistical and Comparative, Including the Achievements of the Ten Year International Bahá'í Teaching & Consolidation Plan 1953–1963". pp. 22, 46.
- Hatcher, John (1996). "Child and Family in Baha'i Religion". In Coward, Harold G. Religious Dimensions of Child and Family Life: Reflections on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. pp. 141–160. ISBN 978-1-55058-104-1.
- "Selected profiles of African-American Baha'is, William H. "Smitty" Smith". 28 June 2006. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Smith, Frank Barry. "About Veterans for Peace: Remembrance of Nikko Schoch". Archived from the original on 12 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Morrison,, Sidney (1987). "Becoming a Man". In Caton, Peggy. Equal Circles: Women and Men in the Baha'i Community. Kalimat Press. p. 199. ISBN 0-933770-28-6.
- The Universal House of Justice (1978). 16. Haifa: Bahá'í World Centre. p. 262. ISBN 0853980756. Unknown parameter
|author=suggested) (help); Missing or empty
- "Buddhists March in VN; No Violence Is Reported". The Bangkok Post 19 (115). 21 May 1963.
- Bahá'í News. National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. August 1964. p. 4. ISSN 0195-9212.
- Bulletin d'Informations Bahá'íes de Suisse [Switzerland Bahá'í News Bulletin]. February 1964. p. 7.
- The Universal House of Justice (1979). "Launching of the Seven Year Plan". Retrieved 2012-09-28.
- Carroll, Bret E. (2000). The Routledge Historical Atlas of Religion in America. Routledge. p. 127. ISBN 0-415-92131-7.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2005). "International Religious Freedom Report — Vietnam". United States State Department. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Momen, Moojan; Smith, Peter (1989). "The Baha'i Faith 1957–1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments". Religion 19: 63–91. doi:10.1016/0048-721X(89)90077-8.
- compiled by Wagner, Ralph D. "VIETNAM". Synopsis of References to the Bahá'í Faith, in the US State Department's Reports on Human Rights 1991–2000. Bahá'í Academics Resource Library. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2003). "International Religious Freedom Report — Vietnam". United States State Department. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Stoyles, Lyndall J. (2004-11). "View on Vietnam". Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2001). "International Religious Freedom Report — Vietnam". United States State Department. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (2006). "International Religious Freedom Report — Vietnam". United States State Department. Retrieved 2012-09-25.
- Terhune, Lea (14 November 2006). "Vietnam Praised, Uzbekistan Faulted on Religious Freedom". Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- "Nation's Baha'i community gets religious recognition". Hanoi, Vietnam: Viet Nam News, Vietnam News Agency. 22 March 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- "Baha’i sect receives legal recognition". VietNamNet Bridge (VietNamNet Bridge). 22 March 2008. Archived from the original on 27 March 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- "Baha’i community recognised as religious organisation". VietNamNet Bridge (VietNamNet Bridge). 26 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-0-27.
- "The Largest Baha'i Communities". Adherents.com. 30 September 2005. Archived from the original on 22 February 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-23.
- "Most Baha'i Nations (2005)". QuickLists > Compare Nations > Religions >. The Association of Religion Data Archives. 2005. Retrieved 2009-07-04.
- Baha'i Community of Vietnam (Vietnamese)
- An individual's webpage about the Baha'is in Vietnam (Vietnamese)