RECENT INCIDENTS IN VIETNAM have HIGHLIGHTED the increasing pressure and intimidation facing christians and church leaders inside the country. Please be praying for our church family in the region, asking for wisdom and courage in how best to live out their faith.
Image: Inside a Vietnamese Christmas service, raided by police
A church pastor and a deacon were detained by the local authorities after inviting 12 foreign Christians to visit their church and pray for the believers in their area. The church, which is in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, is known as being strongly Communist, and local authorities are keen to maintain that identity.
Pastor Cao Cuong* planted his church to pastor at least ten families in the area. The deacon who was detained with him offered his land to build the church.
Since it was erected, local authorities have been watching the church, recording every single person who goes in and out of the building. The authorities have also stopped the church from serving the local community. An attempt to give out free rice to impoverished families was halted by the village chief who said:
“The people in this area are very poor. We encourage them to work hard to earn their living. If you give rice to them, they will not work hard anymore but only look for charity organisations.”
In early December, Pastor Cao Cuong had invited 12 foreigners who were supporters of their church to visit the congregation and pray with believers. During the service, the local authorities turned up to take them to the police station. Pastor Cao Cuong asked the authorities to let the foreigners go otherwise the authorities would be under pressure from various different embassies – there was no legal reason to detain the group. Eventually they were released.
Image: Local authorities questioning church leaders inside a church in Northern Vietnam
Pastor Cao Cuong said:
“The local authority tries very hard to wipe out Christianity in this area. They come to every Christian family in the area to talk against Christianity. They asked the believers not to follow Christianity anymore. Many times, the local authority told me not to pray for the Christians in the area. I responded:’ I am a pastor, ordained by my [registered] church, and assigned to take care of this area. My job is to visit, teach the Bible, and pray for Christians under my lead. Moreover, the churches in this province voted me to be one of the provincial leaders, I can travel freely to take care of Christians in this province according to the tasks entrusted to me.”
Image: Authorities visiting a church service during a time of worship in a coastal Vietnamese city
In another incident, more than 20 Americans who were attending a Christmas event in a city in north Vietnam on the 20th of December 2023 were also kicked out of the event after the local authorities found out about them.
An Open Doors local partner called Isaac* said:
“This left most of the attendees (more than 200) sad and confused as to why the foreigners had to be banned from meeting with the locals when they weren’t doing anything wrong. These foreigners only came to attend, they did not even preach nor participate in any of the performances.”
The organisers of the event tried to talk to the authorities, however, they were determined to expel the Americans from the Christmas gathering. So, they had no choice but to leave. Later, the event was closely monitored by the police until it was over.
Just two days later, in another city in the north, a few foreigners were also asked to leave a local church’s Christmas event after their names were recorded.
Isaac, OD local partner shares, “Recently, the authorities’ control over foreign Christians has become too strong. They do not allow them to speak or participate in any activities at local churches.”
For wisdom and guidance for Pastor Cao Cuong in responding to the local authority and in taking care of his church
That the global church would stand with their family in Vietnam.
For more opportunities and creative ways for Vietnamese believers to grow spiritually in the midst of restrictive religious laws where Bible studies, group gatherings, and prayer meetings can only be done inside a registered church
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