In this interview, Pastor Ngoc explains the history of Christianity in Vietnam and how persecution has made believers grow stronger - even in the face of Covid-19.
Meet Ngoc*, a courageous Vietnamese Pastor who has lived through intense persecution from government, but still leads a thriving church. Here he explains what life was like as a young Christian and how things are for Christians in Vietnam now…
What is the history of Christianity in Vietnam?
“In the 70s, after the war, the government did not want the church to grow. They tried everything to stop Christianity. The government was scared that they might lose control of everything – particularly because Westerners brought Christianity to the country. They imprisoned Christian pastors and church leaders for at least two years. Others, including myself, were sent to re-education camps several times. We were considered a threat to the Communist government.
“But as persecution became worse, the church also became stronger. The church kept on growing, and Christians were sharing the gospel boldly. Because we must be careful when we gather for a fellowship, the church became flexible. We changed the schedule from time to time. Sometimes we meet early in the morning or late at night.”
Is the church in Vietnam still persecuted?
“It is, and I can give an example. Last year, an incident happened in one of the villages I visit. A believer who was a former government official for 18 years passed away. The government wouldn’t let the people in his village attend his funeral because he is a Christian. When I went there, his body was just laid on the floor, so I bought a coffin.
“On the day that we, together with his family and some Christians, were supposed to bury him in his property, we were prohibited by the local authorities from doing so. We decided to bury him at the public cemetery, but the village chief stopped us from using the road. Instead, he made us go to the forest where we had to make our own path until we reached the cemetery.
“This is how the government works now. They give the village chief more authority and power by promising them a promotion. For the sake of a better position in the government, the chief puts more pressure on the believers until they recant their faith.
How is God working?
“Now, the government realises that Christianity is more dangerous than they thought. Not because Christians can potentially cause ‘violence’, but because they have become wiser – because God has transformed our lives. We have become stronger. We have become more educated. We are already exposed to the truth. And because of these things, the government sees that it has become more difficult to control Christians and command them as they please.”
How can we pray for the church in Vietnam?
“First, may the Vietnam church grow in their prayer life. That we should live in prayer. That we should work and do the ministry through the power of the Holy Spirit and with our prayers.
“Second, which is also one of the main functions of the church, pray that we are able to teach and train people with the Word of God. If the church does well with these two, living in prayer and understanding the Word of God, then we will stand firm in their faith. We can face every trial differently for we have been transformed.”
In the few months that Vietnam was put in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of Ngoc’s church members (who are daily labourers) lost their jobs and their source of money for food for their families. Many of the congregation are poor and struggling due to the crisis. But official help didn’t come. When the local authorities learned that they are Christians, they were removed from the list of those who were supposed to receive rations from the government. But despite this, during the quarantine period, Ngoc’s church had an average of 10 converts every week! And thankfully, with your help, Open Doors partners are able to reach more vulnerable believers in Vietnam and elsewhere.
*Name changed for security reasons