The battle rages on in Vietnam's church

( [email protected] ) Mar 11, 2004 08:38 AM EST

Vietnam - Vietnam is fourth on Open Doors' "World Watch List" detailing countries where Christians are most heavily persecuted.

From an official standpoint, certain religious freedoms are allowed for the Vietnamese, unless they stand for something other than what is sanctioned by the Communist government.

In order for a Christian group to congregate, erect a church, or elect religious leaders, they must seek permission from the government. Unfortunately, approved evangelical churches are few and far between.

For the majority of Vietnamese Christians, outward expressions of faith are both criminal and extremely dangerous, according to the Voice of the Martyrs. A US State Department report agrees. The 2003 International Freedom Report cites countless beatings, jail time, and theft from their local authorities.

It's a mix of politics and religon. VOM Canada says a contributing factor to the religious persecution is that the Hmong and Montagnard people had supported the South Vietnamese during the war.

In spite of the security risks, the Bible League continues encouraging the church. "The negative reports of persecution are genuine. There's plenty out there in the media about arrests and persecution, but a lot of that is happening among tribal groups that the government views as insurgency or that the tribal group itself is kind of anti-government."

Our source insists the story isn't all bad in Vietnam. "People are coming in from their various Bible studies, and preaching points and outposts to the mother church, and the mother churches are getting larger and they're really longing for the day when church planting, as we think of it here, can be legalized."