Vietnam (MNN) –January 1, 2019, will mark the one-year anniversary since the Law on Belief and Religion, also known as the religion control law, took effect in Vietnam. Nearly 52 weeks later, it is difficult to determine the impact on Vietnamese Christians.
The religion control law is intended to regulate the activities of religious groups. How the law is applied depends on the location. However, its application is as different as night and day.
“It doesn’t seem to have made dramatic changes in how this activity is regulated and controlled in Vietnam. We still see churches in cities meeting together with very little interference from the government. We still see Christians in rural areas, especially minority ethnic tribal groups, facing heavy persecution,” Voice of the Martyrs’ Todd Nettleton says.
Application of Religion Law
Vietnam’s religion control law has not been evenly applied throughout the country. Due to varied applications of the law, VOM is still asking the same questions it was a year ago: What does this mean? Will doors stay open?
The situation has remained status-quo. It feels like a precursor of what is to come. Whether this law will contribute to or against the restriction of religious freedom is still difficult to determine. However, Vietnam is ranked #18 on Open Doors USA’s World Watch List. The World Watch List is a ranking of the 50 top countries where Christian persecution is most severe, but right alongside persecution are stories of opportunity to worship Christ.
Nettleton recently spoke with a Vietnamese believe who described how in one city, Christians were recently allowed to gather in a sports field for a three-hour Christmas program. The Vietnamese source says 20,000 people gathered together that day. But in some of the rural areas, areas home to minority ethnic tribal groups, this type of worship is not tolerated. In some villages, professing a faith in Jesus is met with eviction from the village.
Be Prayerful, Be Active
Pray for the Vietnamese Christians, both those in cities and minority villages. Ask God to sustain, encourage, and help our Vietnamese brothers and sisters persevere.
“Even as I met with this brother this week, his prayer was pray that we’ll be faithful to Christ. His number one prayer request wasn’t about the enforcement of the law or the government, it was pray that we’ll be faithful to Christ. Pray that we’ll keep sharing the Gospel and that other people will keep coming to know Christ in a personal way in Vietnam,” Nettleton shares.
As citizens of the United States, another way to take action is by engaging with our elected officials. Nettleton says it is important to make it known that religious freedom “is something that America cares about.” Let your local and state government leaders know you care about religious freedom, particularly in Vietnam. Maybe even consider where candidates fall on this issue when taking to the polls to vote in new officials.
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.