Church leaders from north Vietnam say the government is open to the possibility of reforming Decree 92, the restrictive edict on religion implemented countrywide in 2013.
“The government seems to be loosening a bit on religion, but not on human rights issues,” Wang*, a church leader from the north, tells Open Doors. “Last February, Pastor Jonathan* and I met with government officials, and we were given the impression that things will get better.”
Wang says the government is in the process of crafting a new law on religion that will supersede the two-year-old decree. “They’re taking a new approach now,” he continues. “They think it will be more beneficial to work with religious groups rather than oppose them.”
“From what we’ve heard, there will be a more relaxed requirement in the recognition of churches,” says Wang. “For example, groups that have a good record for 10 years will have a strong chance of being recognized.” Decree 92 only recognizes churches that have existed for 20 years.
“The government is observing how other governments relate with organized religion inside and outside the country. They somehow realized that it will be to their advantage if they start practicing leniency.” Pastor Jonathan, Wang’s colleague, adds.
Despite the government’s open-mindedness, however, the pastors say the state is still ‘afraid’ of the church: “Things have improved, but we can’t say the church’s label as a threat is completely gone,” says Jonathan. “I believe it’s still there, but reduced, perhaps. But last year, the government observed the behavior of the Evangelical church, and because of our good standing, they’re now open to reform.”
The pastors believe the new law is slated for completion this May, and will be discussed further by lawmakers in November. Please join us in prayer for this law to pass in Vietnam.
*Pseudonyms used for the protection of the believers
Vietnam is ranked No. 16 on the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Janelle Powers. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Katie Rouse at 678-410-9575.