For more on my Lenten Focus, see my Ash Wednesday post. A quick summary is that I am spending Lent fasting and praying for the Persecuted Church and I invite you to join me.
Christians in hiding and fleeing communist persecution seems like a headline out of 1970, but it is the reality for Christians in Vietnam. Open Doors lists Vietnam as a restricted nation and number 16 on its World Watch List. In recent years, persecution has escalated. A law was passed in 2012 outlawing most house churches, and government officials can try to force Christians to recant their faith. Even though Christians who flee to Cambodia are often repatriated despite international law, the exodus continues. Christians are hiding in forests and suffering food shortages in order to escape persecution in Vietnam.
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The government restricts religious freedom through legislation, registration requirements, and by harassing and intimidating unsanctioned religious groups. In some urban areas, religious activity is permitted within government-approved parameters. But in rural areas, local authorities view Christianity as a foreign threat and often use discrimination, intimidation, property destruction, detentions, beatings and forced renunciations of faith to halt church growth. Many of Vietnam’s more than 50 ethnic minority groups face persecution because of both their ethnicity and Christian faith. Several ethnic Christians have died while being tortured. Christians at a prayer vigil for the release of two Christian leaders were shot when police fired into the crowd, and many were injured. Persecution is more severe in the north than in the south.
Pray for the Church in Vietnam, for the imprisoned, the oppressed, and the exile. Pray that while our focus is on our brothers and sisters facing increasing violence in other parts of the world, we would not forget these Christians who have faced decades of oppression.