Vietnam is home to more than 50 ethnic minorities. Each has its unique language and culture, but such diversity has often presented challenges for the government leaders, whose Communist ideals are averse to individuality, private ownership and religion.
The Kinh group is the largest, making up about 86 percent of the country’s 91 million people. Most of the business owners, educated and political leaders are Kinh.
The “minority people,” as the majority Kinhs would refer to the rest of the ethnic groups, make up the labor force—employed as hired hands in factories and farmlands. Some of them own a small piece of land to grow crops on, but it’s easily lost if they do these two things: fight for emancipation or follow Christ.
Decree 92 requires adherents of certain beliefs to apply for an official permission from the People’s Commune before they gather for religious activities. For the one million tribal believers in Vietnam, this means informing and getting the approval of the local authorities first before they worship, pray and fellowship on a Sunday.
“We submit an application every time,” a pastor of a tribal house church, Vanh, tells Open Doors. “We draw up a list of the people attending. We also inform them of the schedule… activities, how many days. Then, they give us verbal approval.”
To obtain an official permit for his house church to continually exist and operate, Pastor Vanh must follow a different set of rules and satisfy the requirements of religious officials at the provincial and district levels.
“If house churches want to register,” says another tribal pastor, Moan, “They have to spend a lot of time and effort. And it takes many years. If the church leader is weak, he may give up and just continue gathering [in secret] without permit.”
That is what some tribal pastors have done, with some dire consequences. Recently, two house churches in north Vietnam were raided. Their members were dispersed, the Bibles confiscated and a pastor was beaten using bricks.
The minority people groups in Vietnam have been most hungry for the gospel, leading to significant growth in numbers, especially in the last three years. This means that more leaders are needed. They will have to be tapped, equipped and launched to shepherd the newly formed house churches, more so in the central and northern provinces, where majority of the tribal believers live.
Vanh, Moan and all the tribal pastors will have to work double-time. They are not alone, though. Open Doors will be there alongside them.
*name changed to protect identity