Believers in Vietnam are grappling with the challenges they will face as a result of new religious stipulations in the 2012 version of Decree 92. This decree states that Christian groups will now need to secure official permission from the People’s Committee in their local village and precinct before gathering for religious activities. Unregistered churches will be required to secure their village leader’s permission before they start meeting together for prayer, worship, and other ceremonies.
In addition, a pastor or elder of a house church will need to provide personal contact information, church contact information, specific details about the purpose and scope of their meetings, as well as the content and description of their religious activities. The disclosure of such information does not, however, guarantee approval of the application.
These tedious steps are just the beginning of the long process for a house church to operate as a denomination-elect leaders, hold general assemblies, build and renovate places of worship, conduct classes or trainings, and organize charitable activities.
Decree 92 presents an uncertain future for pastors and believers in Vietnam, especially those in the tribal areas where the power of local authorities is rarely opposed. It puts restrictions on Christians at the grassroots level by granting local leaders greater legal leverage to clamp down on worship services, prayer meetings, weekly Bible study groups, and anything else that constitutes an unpermitted “gathering.”
Such is the volatile nature of religious climate in Vietnam. But Christ’s followers here have courageously weathered more intense seasons of persecution in the past. “Vietnam’s church leaders consider Decree 92 as a wake-up call,” says an Open Doors’ worker who oversees the work of strengthening the persecuted Church in Vietnam. “When the country’s economy opened, churches relaxed a bit and became less cautious. Now, they are more vigilant, both in prayer and in their activities. The decree can be a defining moment for the Vietnam Church at this time.”
Father, we bring before Your watchful eyes the plight of Your church in Vietnam. As they encounter new restrictions intended to limit Your work there, take every word spoken from Scripture, every testimony of Your faithfulness, every prayer and multiply its power by the working of Your Spirit. Cause a revival in that place so that all will know that it was not accomplished by clever words, but by very hand of God. Grant wisdom to Your people as they determine a course of action. Kindle within them fervent prayer of intercession on behalf of Your church. And kindle within us as well a commitment to fervent prayer on behalf of Your church in Vietnam. In the name of Jesus who rules over His church, here and across the glove, Amen.