Christians in Vietnam say faith is expensive
Vietnam (CAM) – Earlier this year, a husband and father from northern Vietnam was released from prison, where he had served more than two years – and not for the use of opium so popular in his village.
Thuan * had grown up surrounded by friends and neighbors who got drunk and regularly smoked opium. So he was surprised when, invited to a local missionary’s house to dine with Christians in another village a little over two years ago, he found them somehow warm, fun and friendly, even without opium.
“He had heard the gospel from the local missionary, Pastor Dang *, on several occasions, but he did not like to hear it, because in his village there was not a single Christian, and people liked to get drunk. and smoke opium every day. said the head of the native ministry.
After dinner, Thuan accepted Pastor Dang’s invitation to visit his house church in the village, which was about 20 miles from Thuan’s house.
“Thuan heard the gospel from Pastor Dang and received Christ,” the leader said.
“When Thuan returned to his village, his life changed and his wife and children went with him to the house church in the other village to hear the gospel. After the time of worship, his family also received Christ.
Thuan shared the gospel with three other families in his village, and they too attended Pastor Dang’s Sunday service and happily put their faith in Christ, the leader said. As Pastor Dang’s Church was too far away to be visited every Sunday, the 17 new Christians from the four families began to worship in their own village at Thuan’s.
Three Sundays passed before the police arrived at Thuan’s home. Noting that there had not been a single Christian among the nature worshipers and ancestors of the village, the police asked them, “How did you become Christians? Who told you about Christianity? Why did you convert? “
Thuan told them that the province is home to hundreds of long-established home and church communities, and that there are thousands of Christians who have been worshiping for decades, so why couldn’t they? The officers said they were not allowed to pray at Thuan’s home and had to go to a government-recognized church.
“They then went to the church at Pastor Dang’s house every Sunday morning, but the elderly and children could not go because it was too far for them,” the ministry official said. “So they continued to gather for worship in Thuan’s house, and he shared the Holy Bible with them. The police and many people in their hamlet came and destroyed their homes, taking everything – motorcycles, rice, pigs, goats, cows, and chased them out of the hamlet.
The four families gathered materials to pitch tents in the jungle. Christian leaders have reported the illegal eviction to senior police and federal religious officials. After the families lived in the wild for three months, local police came to their camp and said they could return safely to their village, the ministry chief said.
“When they returned to the village, they continued to gather to worship the Lord in Thuan’s house,” the chief said. “So Thuan was put in prison, sentenced to 26 months in a prison camp. He was released last month.
Vietnam’s 2018 Belief and Religion Law criminalizes faith-based activities that the government did not approve in advance, eliminating a gray area in which house churches were widely tolerated.
The religion law not only makes many fraternities illegal, but is used to prohibit church leaders from visiting homes to conduct services, according to the US State Department.
The law forced small, informal fraternities to coalesce into one large, officially registered church that the government can more easily monitor and manipulate, Christian leaders say. Among other intrusions, the law requires religious groups to report routine activities such as festivals and conferences.
Earlier this year, police banned Christians from praying at house churches in two other provinces and harassed pastors, the ministry chief said.
“There were a lot of problems for the four pastors and 51 Christians belonging to house churches in these provinces,” he said. “The police came and stopped their Sunday morning service and summoned pastors to the police station several times. “
The treatment of refugees who become Christians can also be onerous. When 11 refugee families from one village received Christ earlier this year, police told them to move to another province because local council members wanted their community to be free from Christians, the official said. ministry.
When the Christians continued to meet, the police took their Bibles and hymn books, saying that they were not allowed to publish such books in their ethnic language, but only to photocopy them. The officers also forced them to do gardening work at the village office every Sunday in order to prevent them from gathering for worship, the chief said.
“All Christians have decided to leave,” he said.
Local missionaries help persecuted Christians in Vietnam and throughout Southeast Asia. By sending support through Christian Aid Mission, you can help imprisoned pastors, their families, and other persecuted Christians.
* Name changed for security reasons
Header and story images courtesy of Christian Aid Mission.