In early June, Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party (CPV) published two draft decrees concerning the implementation of a repressive Law on Belief and Religion and the punishments that can be imposed for breaking this law.
According to these decrees, not only will unregistered churches remain illegal and subject to severe criminal penalties, but the government will also be able to tighten its control on registered churches and all religious activities, including online meetings.
For most house churches, the regulations on religion themselves have made it impossible to apply for legal recognition. Officials have denied or ignored some that have tried to apply. Most house church groups have been reluctant to seek legal recognition. In Vietnam, as in China, the reason churches refuse to register with the authorities is because the conditions they would be obliged to comply with are unreasonable, onerous and, for most, unacceptable.
Furthermore, because the onerous registration process requires that the names, contact details and movements of members be recorded, registration can set churches up for government surveillance and targeted persecution.
Morning Star News (MSN) reported: “There are extremely onerous reporting requirements. All local church activities must be reported and approved a year in advance. Every office address change and reassignment of church staff must be reported within short time limits, or churches would face fines.”
MSN further stated that the use of vague language in the decrees means that it is hard to define exactly what constitutes a crime. “Most significant is the continued reference to nebulous ‘crimes’”, MSN reports, “such as ‘taking advantage of belief and religion’ or ‘causing social division’ or ‘violating public morality’ or ‘disturbing social order’. There are no definitions as to what these forbidden things actually mean, leaving them completely open to subjective interpretation.”
It seems that Vietnam may be following China, which has in recent years passed numerous ‘regulations’ and ‘measures’ designed to regulate the church to the point of suffocation.
A Vietnamese local man told MSN, “If these decrees are passed in their present form, both legally recognised and unrecognised organisations will be like a small candle facing a typhoon.”
Source: Morning Star News, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin
- Pray that God will continue to build his church in Vietnam. Pray that if passed, these decrees will only serve to encourage God’s people into a deeper relationship with Him.
- Pray for the dozens of Christians who are imprisoned in horrific conditions for attending unregistered house churches or speaking out against injustice.
- Pray that Vietnamese Christians would have the courage to continue meeting with one another and preaching the gospel despite government oppression.