Southeast Asia (MNN) — If you keep up on mission news in Russia and China, you’re well aware that the practice of forced church registrations has the ability to inhibit Christian activity, particularly when it comes to sharing one’s faith. The latest to join the ranks seems to be Vietnam.
Last month, they passed a “Law on Belief and Religion.” Christian Solidarity Worldwide says while the final version has not yet been made public, previous versions included the idea of church registration along with other religious freedom concerns. They do not think it’s likely that the related clauses have been removed.
Even if this law changes nothing, persecution already exists in the shadows in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.
Dyann Romeijn of Vision Beyond Borders shares, “In the areas that tend to be tourist areas and the places that are highly visited, you can see churches and they’re open and there’s a lot of freedom there. You can see people with Bibles and even Bible bookstores and things like that in some of those countries. And it gives the illusion that there’s a lot of freedom in those countries.
“And yet, when you get into certain areas, there are still lots of pastors in prison and a lot of churches being demolished and a lot of people who are very persecuted for their faith.”
Open Doors puts Vietnam at number 20 on the World Watch List.
Earlier this year, Christian Aid Mission published a report of over 100 pastors imprisoned in Vietnam. They faced the real threat of being poisoned from their food among other detestable prison conditions. Many of them had previously fled the country, but were sent back.
Romeijn explains that areas rife with this type of persecution are often impoverished.
“They don’t have access to ways to kind of publicize what’s happening to them to kind of create that opportunity to put pressure on their governments and things like that. So it’s difficult for people in areas like that to get word out about what’s actually happening, and it’s easier for that persecution to continue.”
The power of the Gospel
As we’ve seen countless times before, when persecution grows, the Church does too. The percentage of Christians in these countries is currently very low. According to the Joshua Project, only 1.7 percent of the population are Evangelical Christians.
But, Romeijn says, “At the same time, Christianity is growing very rapidly. The churches are growing, they’re expanding, they’re seeing people come to Christ in record numbers in all these countries.”
More people want to know this Jesus, the one who people love and trust with their lives. One way to support this growth is to support the pastors who are in the midst of the trial.
Romeijn explains, “Vision Beyond Borders is working on a pastor sponsorship program and we’re working with a contact there who oversees over 500 churches throughout Vietnam and a lot in the central highlands where they’re very persecuted. He also works with a couple Bible colleges there in Vietnam that are training new pastors.”
This sponsorship is a monthly commitment of $35. Because the standard of living is so low in these areas, that small amount allows them to focus on full-time ministry and have their physical needs met. You can help sponsor a pastor through Vision Beyond Borders here.
In addition to sponsorship, committing to prayer is a great way to help the work going on in Southeast Asia.
“We need to be praying that God would open their eyes. It has to be His work. He’s got to open their eyes to see the truth. There’s a lot of deception. There’s a lot of opposition for people to come into saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in these countries. They face a lot of persecution, not just from their government but also even from their own families.”