Protestantism in Vietnam
Protestants in Vietnam are a small religious minority constituting from 0.5 to 2% of the population or around one million people (or 1%) as the newest government census of 2006. Though its numbers are small, Protestantism is the country's fastest-growing religion, growing at a rate of 600% in the 2000s.
Protestantism was introduced in 1911 at Da Nang by a Canadian missionary named Dr. R.A. Jaffray. As part of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, over 100 missionaries were sent to Vietnam, assisting the faith's growth in the country. The first Protestant organization recognized by the government was the Evangelical Church of Vietnam: North in 1963.
By 1967 information, Protestant communities were represented mainly within South Vietnam. Those communities included the French Reformed Church, Anglican–Episcopalian, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Baptists, Churches of Christ, Worldwide Evangelization Crusade, and Seventh-day Adventists. Other Protestant associations were also represented in some social services and welfare agencies. In 1967 there were 150,000 Protestant adherents in South Vietnam, representing about 1% of the total population.
Several Protestant church properties were confiscated during the communist takeover of South Vietnam in 1975, including the seminaries in Nha Trang and Hanoi. Hundreds of Protestant churches were also destroyed in this period.
All Protestant denominations in Vietnam were gathered by local communist government into a single organization called the Evangelical Church of Vietnam in 1975, which had around 500,000 official members in 1997. However, in 1988, a house church movement began when some active pastors were expelled from the official churches. One of the most prominent from those pastors was Tran Dinh Ai, whose movement reached 16,000 members and 165 churches (by 1997).
Bible societies in Vietnam
The organized work of United Bible Societies in Vietnam began in 1890. In 1966 the Vietnamese Bible Society was established. The Bible societies distributed 53,170 Bible examples and 120,170 New Testament examples in Vietnamese within the country in 2005. Two years earlier, in 2003, 60,000 copies of Bible and 50,000 copies of New Testament (all in Vietnamese) were printed in Vietnam with the permission of local authorities. Same year, 10,000 copies of the Chinese language Bible were printed in Vietnam for the local Chinese community. 7,555 copies of them were sold in a few months.
Currently, more than half of the Protestants are part of evangelical house churches. Growth of the faith has been most dramatic among ethnic minority peoples (Montagnards) such as the Mnong, E De, Jarai, and Bahnar. Pressure was reportedly put on Protestants in several northwestern villages to recant their faith in 2005, though there are fewer reports than in years past. Unsanctioned church meetings are routinely broken up and its members detained and harassed. In April 2001, the government gave official recognition to the Southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam. In 2005, hundreds of house churches that had been ordered to shut down in 2001, were quietly allowed to reopen. Over 100 refugees fled to Cambodia in the wake of a crackdown over large protests against land confiscation and a lack of religious freedom. In 2001, a historic Protestant church built in 1936 which was being petitioned for return to the local Christian community, was demolished. At least 54 people remain imprisoned due to their faith, including some Protestants. The New Life Fellowship, which has been seeking official recognition for eight years, was denied access in 2005 from meeting in Ho Chi Minh City. A Protestant pastor was forced to spend 12 months in psychiatric hospital on the disputed reason that he is delusional. In March, 2007, a member of the main Hanoi congregation of the legally recognized Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) Nguyen Van Dai was arrested for accusations relating to his defense of religious freedom, including disseminating alleged "infractions" of religious liberty.
Baptist and Mennonite movements were officially recognized by Hanoi in October, 2007, which was estimated as some improvement of religious freedom in the country. By words of the Baptist Church Pastor Nguyen Thong, since 1989 his Church has attracted more than 18,400 followers with 500 ministers, practising in 135 congregations in 23 cities and provinces around the country.
Meanwhile, a film was made in 2007 about the Vietnamese underground churches and their continuing persecution from local authorities.
By the 2008 estimates of Release International, many Christians from Vietnam's tribal highlands are still regarded as enemies and targeted as "agents of America" because of their legacy during the Vietnam War. They are reportedly beaten, tortured and starved behind bars, despite the official claims and guarantees of freedom of religion.
- US State Department 2006 country report on Vietnam
- Religion in Vietnam 2006
- Vietnam Affirms Consistent Policy on Religion: White Paper
- Protestantism in South Vietnam, US Navy, Bureau of Naval Personnel, Chaplains Division, 1967
- Compass Direct (2002-09-20). "Vietnam Protestants Call Conference 'Miraculous'". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2006-07-21.
- FVA News
- History of the Vietnamese Bible, by Phuoc Nguyen, extracted from Linh Luc journal (January, 1996), Vietnamese Baptist
- United Bible Societies, Asia Pacific - Laos & Vietnam
- "Vietnam". US State Department. 2002-09-07. Retrieved 2006-07-21.
- "Minorities fleeing Vietnam to Cambodia". BBC. 2001-05-04. Retrieved 2006-07-21.
- Name Hidden (2002-09-09). "Vietnam's Hidden Tragedy". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2006-07-21.
- "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IN VIETNAM". Voice of America. 2004-09-27. Retrieved 2006-07-21.
- Vietnam: Lawyers and internet writers Nguyen Van Dai and Le Thi Cong Nhan sentenced, The English Centre of International PEN, May 2007
- "Encourage the Wife of Imprisoned Vietnamese Lawyer". Persecution blog. 2007-04-25.
- "Hanoi officially recognises Baptists and Mennonites", Asia News, October 2007.
- Vietnam war rumbles on, Christians branded "the enemy", Christian Today Magazine, March 2008
- Information on persecuted countries by International Christian Concern
- Vietnamese Christian Broadcast
- Tìm Hiểu Tin Lành
- Vietnamese Christian Broadcast from Australia
- Bible in Vietnamese
- Vietnamese Evangelical Church in Australia
- The New Vietnamese Bible