Vietnam
Socialist Republic of Vietnam
November 29-30
Asia


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GEOGRAPHY

Area 331,653 sq.km. Long, narrow country occupying the entire eastern and southern coastline of Indochina.

Population Ann.Gr. Density
2000 79,831,650 +1.57% 241 per sq. km.
2010 90,764,274 +1.25% 274 per sq. km.
2025 108,037,101 +1.05% 326 per sq. km.

Capital Hanoi 3,500,000. Other major city: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) 6.5 mill. Urbanites 21%.

PEOPLES

Vietnamese 86.9%.Predominantly coastal people; large cultural differences between northern and southern Vietnamese.

Mon-Khmer 4.1%. 45 ethno-linguistic groups. Largest: Muong 1.14m; Khmer (Cambodian) 1.1m; Bana 170,000; Sedang 120,000; Hre 117,000; Koho 115,000.

Thai-Dai 4.8%. 14 ethno-linguistic groups. Largest: Tay(7) 1.48m; Thai(3) 1.29m; Nung 877,000; San Chay 142,000.

Hmong/Mien 1.6%. 10 groups. Hmong(7) 693,000; Yao(3) 589,000.

Sino-Tibetan 1.6%. 9 groups. Han Chinese 1.12m; San Diu 118,000.

Malayo-Polynesian 1%.8 groups. Jarai 301,000; Ede 242,000; Cham 123,000.

Literacy 94%. Official language Vietnamese. All indigenous languages 87. Languages with Scripture 4Bi 11NT 18por 9w.i.p.

ECONOMY

Decades of war and application of Marxist theory depressed the economy and led to high inflation in the 1980s. Reforms in the 1990s brought significant but uneven progress. Urbanites fare better in the new market economy but there is much rural poverty. Vietnam is the world's 2nd largest rice exporter. Unemployment 10.3%. HDI 0.664; 110th/174. Public debt 78.5% of GNP. Income/person $310 (1% of USA).

POLITICS

Communist republic declared in North Vietnam in 1945. There was continuous warfare between 1941 and 1985, under the Japanese, and then against the French, South Vietnam, USA and all surrounding lands. North Vietnam finally conquered the South in 1975, and ruled Cambodia between 1978-85. The Communist party still controls all government policy and activity, although 47% of Party members said they would consider another form of government. Capitalist market economics is proving a serious challenge for the Communists.

RELIGION

Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom are meaningless; actual government policy is to control all religious movements, including Buddhism. Persecution of Christians continues to be harsh, and particularly severe for unregistered and ethnic minority churches. Persecution index 6th in the world.

Religions Population % Adherents Ann.Gr.
Buddhist 54.14 43,220,855 +1.5%
non-Religious 21.80 17,403,300 +1.8%
Christian 8.16 6,514,263 +2.5%
Traditional ethnic 8.10 6,466,364 +1.8%
Cao Dai/Hoa Hao 5.60 4,470,572 +0.2%
Chinese 1.10 878,148 -0.2%
Muslim 0.70 558,822 +1.6%
Baha'i 0.40 319,327 -2.9%

Christians Denom. Affil.% ,000 Ann.Gr.
Protestant 8 0.89 711 +6.0%
Independent 29 0.57 454 +7.4%
Anglican 1 0.00 4 +3.1%
Catholic 1 6.46 5,155 +1.6%
Marginal 2 0.04 29 +11.3%
Unaffiliated   0.20 160 n.a.

Churches MegaBloc Cong. Members Affiliates
Catholic C 1,969 3,347,403 5,155,000
Evangelical P 316 546,100 640,000
Unreg. house chs [19] I 1,200 80,000 200,000
Montagnard I 781 39,039 130,000
Indig. marginals [7] M 541 54,054 120,000
United Protestant P 105 10,500 21,000
Assemblies of God P 281 10,000 20,000
Other denoms [12]   425 38,263 66,550
Total Christians [43]   5,618 4,125,359 6,352,550

Trans-bloc Groupings pop. % ,000 Ann.Gr.
Evangelical

1.4

1,104 +6.2%
Charismatic

0.7

580 +4.5%
  Pentecostal

0.0

26 +2.8%


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Answers to Prayer

1 A growing, witnessing Church is emerging from years of persecution. A large-scale and sustained turning to God is taking place, in both registered and unregistered churches, and especially among the mountain tribal peoples of central and southern Vietnam. Praise God for preservation and growth. As in China, Communism failed to stamp out the witness, but rather strengthened and spread the flame of the Spirit!

Challenges for Prayer

1 One of the few Communist nations in the 21st Century , Vietnam faces new challenges. Repression of all types of freedom continues, but at the same time, social ills are on the rise. Drug addiction, AIDS, prostitution and exploitation of children are all too common. There are two abortions for every live birth, one of the world's highest rates. Pray that the ideological and moral darkness over this nation might be banished by the light of the gospel.

2 All open missionary work ceased in 1975. CMA laboured for 64 years (for 50 years as the only Protestant mission). Other agencies arrived in the 1950s, notably WEC, SBC, UWM and SIL. In 1974 there were 280 missionaries in the land. The years of sowing are reaping an abundant harvest, and these organizations and others (AO, YWAM, AoG) are poised to enter Vietnam once believers' prayers pry open this closed nation.

3 Vietnam remains one of the worst persecutors of Christians. Seeing the role of Christianity in the demise of Communism elsewhere, the regime has attempted to either control or wipe out believers. Government efforts have intensified as churches respond to persecution with growth and outreach. Registration implies compromise; failure to register churches is illegal – forcing most believers underground. Pray for:

a) Those in prison for their faith. At any time there are probably dozens of Christian leaders imprisoned. Most pastors have had times of imprisonment in grim conditions. Pray for Christians in prison – many prisoners have come to faith through such witness.

b) Registered churches. Pray that they may withstand unrelenting government pressures to compromise and conform to strict regulations. The Church in the north has suffered much longer, and the authorities there are more strict. Meetings are only permitted in the few remaining recognized church buildings, the majority have been closed or destroyed. Open evangelism and itinerant ministry is forbidden and contact with foreign Christians restricted. Yet these churches, especially EVCN/CMA, have grown.

c) Unregistered churches.These are harassed by the police, with meetings frequently broken up and leaders arrested. Yet the courage and tenacity of these believers under pressure rarely fails and growth continues. There are tensions between leaders of registered and unregistered churches.

d) The Montagnard churches among the Ede, Jarai, Koho, Mnong, Stieng and others. They have suffered particularly savage persecution – churches razed, congregations scattered, Christians killed. Yet people movements to Christ are still reported. Maintaining adequate fellowship is hard where meetings are illegal and few of their languages have Scriptures. This lack has led to schisms and false teaching in some areas.

4 Leaders are the key to Vietnamese church. As numbers increase, so does false teaching and error. Opportunities for training are simply not there. The Catholics have reopened several seminaries, all monitored by the government. There are informal study programmes and unofficial Bible schools in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Danang and elsewhere. Expatriates often quietly enter the country to do leadership training seminars, but their low profile limits the impact. Pray for the importation of more study materials and theological books. Pray that the Spirit may guide believers into all truth.

5 The Vietnamese diaspora was birthed through tragedy as many perished in their flight from the Communists. Two million are settled around the globe, where they are more accessible to ministry. Pray for workers with a heart to reach them. Many thousands are returning to their homeland, amongst them many who became Christians while abroad. Pray that they may endure persecution and not fall away, but rather minister to their countrymen who have not yet heard the words of life.

6 The country is gradually opening up. Most of the population was born after the war, and are more interested in capital gain and the outside world than Communist propaganda. They are proving responsive to the gospel. The desperate need for economic development is giving opportunities for tentmakers in business and in teaching English. Christian NGOs who propose legitimate aid projects are increasingly invited to work here. Pray that Vietnam may fully open to missionaries, and that many committed and prepared workers may respond.

7 The less-reached. Present church growth is not even – many sections of the community and numerous ethnic groups remain scarcely touched by the gospel.

a) The northern Vietnamese. As a result of the longer Communist presence, they are much less evangelized than their southern brethren.

b) The Muslim Cham and Buddhist Khmer of the Mekong Delta; only a handful have believed. FEBC broadcasts in both Cham and Khmer. Resources are available in Khmer – the Bible, the JESUS film, radio – the need is for people who will take them to the Khmer.

c) The northern minorities have been beyond the reach of missionaries for 50 years because of war and Communism. Most are Buddhist or animist, many without any known believers. Pray especially for the Giay, Hani, San Chay, Tho and Puoc, the largest groups with no known believers. Christian radio is a key ministry, but only some have programmes in their language. The Hmong church has grown to over 100,000 believers largely through FEBC radio. The government has begun jamming broadcasts to them to prevent further growth.

d) Communist officials and government leaders. The ideal Communist state for which they fought and suffered is proving a grim failure. Disillusionment is widespread.

e) The Cao Dai and Hoa Hao religionists strongly resisted Communism. Together they may number as many as 4.5 million but these religions are declining. Christians must be aware of their unique cultures and beliefs and reach them in a relevant way.

8 Bible and literature ministries:

a) Vietnamese Bibles were finally printed locally in 1995. There are now over 35,000 Bibles and 65,000 NTs printed and distributed throughout the country – primarily through state-approved churches. While this is an encouraging development, it is not nearly enough for the great need. Pray that it might increase.

b) Bible translation is an ongoing task. Many ethnic minorities lack the Word in their languages – 45 have a definite translation need, with possibly a further 22 that might do so. Pray for the completion of this huge task. A long-needed modern translation of the Vietnamese Bible is now available.

c) Christian literature is in great demand, but strictly monitored. Recently 80,000 gospel portions and 120,000 Bible comics were produced locally with permission. Pray for the provision of more literature for evangelism, follow-up and teaching.

9 Media ministries:

a) The JESUS film and video is available in Akha, Cantonese, Hmong, Khmer, Lahu and Vietnamese. Lack of freedom and equipment limit their use, but 500 video cassettes were recently legally imported.

b) GRN have prepared recordings in 60 languages of Vietnam. Pray that these recordings, as well as cassette players, may be circulated throughout the country.

c) Christian radio programmes of FEBC have been remarkable in their scope and impact. Vital for believers, they are widely heard despite shortages of batteries and radios and in the face of persecution of listeners if discovered. FEBC broadcasts 24 hrs/wk in Vietnamese and one or two programmes/week in 21 other minority languages. TWR adds 10 hrs/wk in Vietnamese.

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