In Vietnam, the situation is becoming increasingly restrictive for followers of Jesus. According to a church leader from Hanoi, the government is not recognizing new churches, and underground churches are experiencing more persecution. In addition, a proposed law, now in its fourth draft, would increase the penalty for “bad” behavior from the current simple fine or warning, to stricter measures. The ambiguous law would provide a broad umbrella under which authorities could bring trumped up charges carrying stiff penalties against believers.
“The government officials make life dangerous for Christians,” shares a believer from Ho Chi Minh. “If you’re a Christian in the workplace or school, you have to protect your faith all the time.” This is felt by children as well as adults. A pastor reports the story of a 4th grade girl who was asked about a person she admires and she wrote about Nick Vujicic. At the end of the essay, she quoted Nick’s statement saying she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her. Now, the school is threatening to kick her out.
“The local officials in provinces are required to report to the central government how many Christians are in their province,” says another pastor from Hanoi. “Local officials must not allow [the number of] Christians to grow in the province. In fact, local officials are graded according to how they limit or keep Christianity from entering a village. Controlling the growth of Christians will merit praises.”
“If they do not do well, the central government can resort to measures such as not giving electricity to a village filled with Christians,” he continues. “The top leaders would publically state that local officials cannot harass Christians for publicity’s sake. But persecution is ignored and even applauded by the government.“
“In March of this year in Son La province, four H’mong believers went to evangelize and were caught by the police,” shares a believer from the north. “All of them were hung upside down from the ceiling by the police for about five hours. Their arms swelled. In Dien Bien, Christians are always beaten simply because they are believers. Some have already left the province while others are still staying and are being continually persecuted for their faith.”
In June, church workers were attacked in north Vietnam while on their way home from conducting a funeral. Reportedly, the violence against them was due to the family’s insistence on having a Christian funeral service despite the authorities’ earlier refusal to approve the Christian ceremony.
A pastor from Ho Chi Minh explains that the government intends to restore the cultural traditions of indigenous people and has been promoting animism. “Christians who do not participate are reported to the police and their non-participation becomes a criminal offense.”
Christians have been beaten and driven out of their homes for refusing to return to ancestral worship at Buddhist altars. Some have had their livestock stolen, as well. Luy, from Yen Bai, was hospitalized for four days after being beaten for refusing to follow the village rule of giving a pig and 20 liters of wine as an offering to the village idol.
Livestock was not the only thing snatched from one tribal Christian. He and three other Christian families were expelled from their village for refusing to give their pigs to be used for ancestor worship.
He recounts the ordeal he and twelve fellow believers have gone through since March; “Our neighbors noticed that we weren’t sacrificing pigs or water buffaloes so they immediately held a meeting, and the young people were sent to attack us and destroy our property. They were carrying clubs and knives. They were so angry- destroying everything we had. I was summoned to the police station. I was asked to sign a paper that was signifying the denial of my faith. They told me that if I did not sign the paper I should leave the village, but I refused. I told them that we will not deny our faith… So the mob burned down our house. After returning from the police station, I and three other Christian families decided to move to the jungle and hide. I asked my kids to sneak back into the village and ask my in-laws for food because there is nothing we could eat in the forest.”
They were soon located by the police, arrested and ordered to leave the village. He pleaded their case: “I explained that this land is the only land I know. My ancestors were born here.” Adamant in their desire to stay, he and the three families faced the ire of their neighbors. “Around 105 families from our village met,” he continues. “After the meeting, the whole village—from youngest to oldest—armed themselves and raided our farms. They chopped down our coffee trees and other crops. The police just watched the villagers as they were destroying our crops.”
Finally, last month, he and the other three families decided to leave the village and find a safer place to stay. “We are not allowed to return because we are Christians; we are considered bad elements. We miss our village so much, but we are not allowed to go back.”
Father, we come before You on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Vietnam. We pray against the new law on religion that is being written now and against the increased persecution against them. We pray that You will soften the hearts of those in the government and of local authorities that they will stand in true justice for the rights of all citizens and all religious worship, including those who meet in house churches. We pray for Your Holy Spirit to comfort and encourage the believers in their fear and suffering and to strengthen them through Your holy Word. Where Satan would use laws and authorities to squelch Christ’s church in Vietnam, we pray that You will use even this persecution to grow Your church and cause her to flourish. In the Name of Jesus, who is gathering His church from all nations and tongues, Amen.