Nick Vujicic spoke in Vietnam to a crowd of 35,000 people that is larger than when the national soccer team played the regional rival Indonesia; he talked about God and heaven, subjects that have been heavily censored in the communist country.
“Do you know why I love God?” The limbless Australian asked a young girl who, like him, was born without arms and legs, according to AP. “Because heaven is real. And one day when we get to heaven, we are going to have arms and legs. And we are going to run, and we are going to play, and we are going to race.”
Those associated with Vujicic’s Vietnam tour said it was the first by a foreign Christian – and the largest gathering to be addressed by a foreigner in the country’s recent history.
Nguyen Dat An, a Christian who organized the trip, said it was a “miracle” that the state broadcaster didn’t cut off Vujicic’s speech when he brought up these two subjects. “God is the general director of this event.”
According to Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Vietnam has 8 percent Christians and 16 percent Buddhist and 45 percent of its people belonging to indigenous religions. Although the country’s constitution states religious freedom, in practice it is regulated and in some cases restricted. Yet, t is often compared favorably to China in discussions on religious freedom.
Vujicic’s trip to Vietnam, which included eight events in two cities, was organized by local Christians but sponsored by a large construction company headed by a Buddhist, the AP reported. The company said it had spent $1.7 million as it recognized the value of having its brand associated with a good-looking foreigner with a compelling tale of success and family values.
Moreover, the company Hoa Sen group paid for a huge marketing campaign: billboards around major cities, social media buzz and his appearance on the front pages of most state-run newspapers when he arrived on Wednesday.
Although none of the marketing or media coverage mentioned his faith, Vujicic said backstage Thursday, his face and hair wet from tropical downpour in Hanoi, “Of course, in Vietnam there are limitations in how you can and can’t talk about your faith, but with wisdom we come in. Some places we go we have to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”
With the country’s vice president watching, Vujicic spoke out against bullying and drinking; on the need for forgiveness and hope; and respect for family, according to AP. His speech was broadcasted to millions watching through television.
Many disabled people attended; some joined him on stage and embraced him.
After speaking in Vietnam, Vujicic continues on his speaking tour in Cambodia as part of his Asia tour.