ReiViet 11-08-110

Vietnam's Christians

A Century of Growth in Adversity


Reg Reimer

William Carey Library, 2011, 122 pp.  ISBN 978-0-87808-304-6


Reg Reimer has had 45 years of involvement in Vietnam, beginning as a missionary from 1966 to 1975.  He has reported on it widely, but mostly anonymously.  Vietnam, the world's 13th largest nation, fell behind a bamboo curtain in 1975, but the church has multiplied nine-fold since.


The Catholic Church has been in Vietnam for four centuries, enduring fierce persecution and 13,000 martyrs.  It now has eight million followers, the second largest Catholic Church in Asia, after the Philippines.  Evangelical believers have grown from 160,000 believers to about 1.4 million since 1975.  It is a thoroughly indigenous, strong, vibrant, independent church.  The book is most detailed in covering this last 35 years. 


Of the remaining five Communist countries, Vietnam may have the most hope for positive change.  The British branch of the Vatican-approved organization, Aid to the Church in Need found in 2011 that 75 percent of religious persecution in the world today is against Christians.  In two-thirds of the countries where persecution occurs, it has become worse.  (Preface)


Roman Catholic missions were established in Vietnam early in the 1600s.  The first Protestant forays were in the 1890s.  The Christian and Missionary Alliance established a permanent mission station at Danang in 1911.


The Vietnam War cost 580,000 American lives but it was many times greater for Vietnam. 


Communist Vietnam is a very oppressive regime but it seems to get off rather easily in world opinion. 


Ethnic minorities make up well over half of the Protestants in Vietnam, in the Central Highlands and the Northwest Mountainous Region. 


The story of early C&MA missionary work is told in a little book, Pen Pictures of Annam and its People by Grace Hazenburg Cadman (1920).


20,000 Vietnamese were baptized from 1921-1940 and a strong largely self-supporting church emerged.


Gordon and Laura Smith wrote about their missionary work after World War II in The Blood Hunters: A Narrative of Pioneer Missionary Work Among the Tribes of French Indo-China (G. Smith 1942) and Gongs in the Night (L. smith 1943).


In 1971 there were 42 missionaries working with ethnic Vietnamese and a comparable number with the Montagnards in the Central Highlands.  (42)


During Communist rule, a house church movement began, freeing them from the idea that a church building was required for congregational life and making rapid expansion possible.  (71)  In 2009, there were estimated 250,000 Christians in at least 2,500 home-based groups and 70 different house church organizations.  (71)


"Vietnam abandoned Marxist economics more than twenty years ago, improving the lives of millions of Vietnamese as a result. But, like the other four remaining Communist countries--North Korea, China, Laos, and Cuba--Vietnam has not abandoned its totalitarian, one-party system of government or its deep antipathy toward religion."  "Open Doors' World Watch List ranked Vietnam in the top-ten-worst category for eight of the last 12 years.  (95) [The author tells some of their stories.]