Argentine-born Luis Palau, who has preached to over 28 million people in 72 countries, delivered the gospel message at a historic celebration on Saturday (April 9) in Ho Chi Minh City. The event, the first major celebration of its kind, commemorated the Centennial of Protestantism in Vietnam (1911-2011).
In what seems to have become standard government procedure in Vietnam, permission requested months in advance was riddled with set-backs and delays. Then, just three hours before the event, permission was granted at a venue several miles from the one organizers originally sought. Event equipment which was staged in one part of the city had to be quickly moved to the new location, and thousands of people had to be notified of the change. Then, at 9pm, two hours after the scheduled start, huge banners reading “PRAY FOR VIETNAM” and “GOD LOVES VIETNAM” were unfurled to welcome thousands of people to the festival.
Given the lack of government cooperation, the leader of Vietnam’s Evangelical Fellowship (house churches) said the fact that the event went ahead at all was “an absolute miracle.” Dr. Nguyen Xuan Duc, president of the Vietnam World Christian Fellowship, said he was very encouraged about the future of the church in Vietnam. “These are watershed days for Protestantism in Vietnam,” he said. “There is no fear, but rather wonderful spontaneity and irrepressible joy. Events like this happen in spite of the government.”
In China however, freedom of religion is becoming more repressed. According to Bob Fu of the China Aid Association, over the weekend police held around two dozen pastors and elders of Beijing’s Shouwang Church under house arrest or at police stations to keep them from attending a Sunday worship service in a public location. Then, in an attempt to disrupt the church service, they cordoned off the walkway to an outdoor area adjacent to the property owned by the church. The police then arrested at least 160 members of the 1,000-strong church as they tried to assemble.
Church leaders claimed officials had pressured their landlords, forcing them out of both rented and purchased locations and leaving them no choice but to worship in the open. Fu said, “The church had initially tried to register with the government. They waited for two years, and when the government still denied them registration, they tried to keep a low profile before finally deciding to buy the Daheng New Epoch Technology building.” Shouwang is a very unique church, Fu added. “Most members are well-educated, and they include China’s top religious scholars and even former government officials, which may be a factor in the government’s response to them. As one of the largest house churches in Beijing, Shouwang is insisting on meeting together rather than splitting the congregation into smaller groups meeting in several locations.”
According to Compass News, three top leaders of the church remain in jail and several others are under strict surveillance.
Father, thank you for your provision over the event in Vietnam, and that despite complications, thousands of people were able to hear the gospel. We pray that the Christian community in Vietnam would continue to thrive and grow. We also ask for freedom for the church in China, and particularly for the church leaders and others who are still in jail. May your Spirit of peace be upon them as they wait patiently, and may they trust You despite the repression they are experiencing.
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