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The Cost of Following Jesus in Vietnam

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Editor’s Note: The first part of this article is taken from Open Doors, a ministry that supports persecuted Christians in more than sixty countries.

Christians in Vietnam are targeted by both the government and, especially in rural contexts, tribal leaders. The government has some level of tolerance for Christian groups, particularly Catholics, but if any believers are deemed to be politically active, they can be imprisoned. In places where religion and ethnic identity are closely tied, Christians who convert from traditional religions are often the victims of pressure and violence from their families and communities. 

On the state level, villagers collude with local Communist authorities, beating believers, kicking them out of their villages, and stoning places of worship during meetings. Local and national government authorities persecute the Christian minority through their laws, and Christian bloggers and political activists have been arrested and sentenced. 

A sweeping 2018 law on religion, which looked like a possible improvement for Christians on paper, has not changed anything substantially, except to add another source of uncertainty. Tighter regulations on online communication are also restricting and limiting the freedom available to Christians. 

Despite dropping by one place in the overall ranking of the top fifty, the persecution score for Vietnam actually went up by two points. The score for violence and almost all spheres of life increased slightly. 

How Christians are suffering

Both non-traditional Protestants and converts from indigenous religions are persecuted intensively. Estimates indicate that approximately eighty percent of the country’s Christians belong to the country’s ethnic minorities, like the Hmong, and face social exclusion, discrimination, and attacks. Ethnic minority Christian children are discriminated against in schools; their medical needs also are often neglected. Some are not even allowed to attend school at all. 

Non-Christian relatives of Christians are also strong persecutors, cutting family ties and denying any family inheritance. In some cases, relatives force a Christian spouse to divorce and then withhold custody of their children. Believers’ homes are sometimes destroyed, forcing them to leave their village. 

Examples

In several incidents, churches and monasteries in Hanoi, Hue, and Saigon have been attacked and pressured to accept demolition and the expropriation of their land, partly through the hands of government-hired thugs. 

In 2018, Vietnam sentenced and jailed a number of Catholic activists, bloggers, and Protestant pastors. In August, a pastor, Le Dinh Luong, was sentenced to twenty years for an alleged attempt to “overthrow the government.” 

When tribal students in the central highlands converted to Christianity, their college principal threatened them with expulsion. Teachers also try to discourage Christian students, saying no one would employ them so it would be better to give up their faith altogether. 

Rendered Stateless[1]

The following example of persecution in Vietnam comes from International Christian Concern:

Government-led oppression in Vietnam has rendered tens of thousands of Hmong Christians stateless, leaving them without household registration. Without it, people cannot obtain marriage certificates, birth certificates for their children, or even open a bank account. One of the most immediate and serious consequences is that they are unable to purchase health insurance. 

Mr. Ly A Lam and his not-legally-recognized wife, Vang Thi Mo, are both originally from Dien Bien province in northern Vietnam. Under pressure from the local authorities to renounce their Christian faith in 2013, they both migrated to Doan Ket Commune, a community located in the jungle and mostly made up of displaced Hmong Christians in central Vietnam. In their new residence, Lam’s family, like the other 170 households in the commune, does not have household registration. 

They suffer tremendously as a result. They have been denied the right to an education, to buy and own land, to set up a business, to be legally employed, to access state-owned insurance, to legally marry, and to have the father’s name included in their children’s birth certificates. 

In August 2018, Lam fell ill and had to be hospitalized. He was diagnosed with a severe stomach ulcer. Without household registration, his family was not eligible for social security or medical care. His wife tried to get a loan from a state bank, but was told that a household registration was required. The hospital advised Lam that if the police of Dak Ngo Village certified that he was a local resident, the hospital fee would be waived. 

The police, however, refused his request for certification because his family did not have household registration. Without any other options, Lam’s wife had to sell the family’s moped, which helped Lam earn a living by running errands and doing odd jobs for neighbors. The sale of the scooter brought in the equivalent of $430 USD. Lam’s wife had to borrow another $430 from neighbors to pay for hospital fees and medication.

The persecution in Vietnam reminds us of the high cost of following Christ for many of our brothers and sisters around the world. It also reminds us to pray for their faith and perseverance, as well as for the Lord to put an end to sin and injustice.

[1] https://www.persecution.org/2019/05/28/icc-provides-moped-hmong-christian-family/

Eric Roberts serves as an Assistant Editor at Radical. He is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Hoover. Eric and his wife Morgan live in Birmingham, Alabama.
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