05 July 2022

Christian families in Vietnam expelled from community as government plans to tighten religion laws

Xong Ba Thong, his family and three other families were thrown out of their home in Vietnam after they became Christians. The Vietnamese government are also planning to amend their 2018 religion law to further limit freedom of religion or belief in the country.  

Xong Ba Thong and his family have lost access to public services and cannot obtain vital identity documents

Four Vietnamese families who converted to Christianity have returned to their village after being expelled from their village because of their faith – only to face more persecution.  

Xong Ba Thong from Na Ngoi commune in Ky Son district, in Vietnam’s north central Nghe An province, sent a report to the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North). In it, he reportedly said his family, because of their faith, faced ill-treatment at the hands of local authorities – even though they had permission to join a state-approved religious organisation. 

Thong’s whole family, including his parents, converted to Christianity in 2017 after listening to radio broadcasts, he told Radio Free Asia. Despite pressure from local government officials to renounce their newfound faith, the ethnic Hmong family joined the state-approved Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North). 

But the harassment continued, including house visits and summons to the commune headquarters. Local officials also confiscated their plough and cut off their electricity, undermining their livelihood.  

Following a community vote on 4 June, Thong’s family and three other families were officially expelled from the village and, as a result, no longer had access to public services or could obtain vital identity documents such as birth certificates.   

According to Vui*, an Open Doors partner, the families have been allowed to return – but not without facing new challenges. 

“According to our local contact, these believers have already been allowed by the local authority to return to their village and conduct worship services after the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (North) (registered church) lobbied their case to the authority,” Vui says. “However, now that they are already back in their village, village authorities have instructed market entrepreneurs within and in neighbouring villages to prohibit these believers from selling or buying any goods or produce. They have to travel to another district, which could take hours by land travel, if they want to sell their produce or buy their needs.

“Nghe An province is one of the toughest places in Vietnam for Christians to be living in,” Vui continues. “The province is the birth place of Ho Chi Minh, founder of the Indochina Communist Party. Several incidents recently have been reported that believers were beaten, their properties destroyed, and some kicked out of their villages because of their faith in God.”

Plans to amend religious laws in Vietnam to increase government control 

Vietnam adopted its Law on Belief and Religion in January 2018. The law is not only restrictive but also unevenly implemented across the country.  

“The day I met the district delegation, I read the law on belief and religion to them all and showed them all, but they said the law has no effect here, has no effect in the district, this province,” Thong says. 

“They said that no one [in the community] followed a religion…. They also said that [by following Protestant Christianity] we have greatly affected national unity.” 

One Hmong church leader who fled the country shared, “This happens a lot, and has happened for many years… Commune or village authorities do not understand the law or the constitution about religion.” 

Vietnam’s Communist government is suspicious of Protestant Christians, many of whom belong to the Hmong and Montagnard ethnic minorities, as they are seen as representatives of Western countries and therefore potential troublemakers.  

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that the government is planning to amend the 2018 religion law. Observers, among them church leaders, are concerned that the two draft decrees will increase the government’s control over religious affairs, including online meetings, with fines of up to 60 million VND (£2,100) for failing to adhere to the regulations.  

*Name changed for security reasons 

  • For Xong and the families that have returned, that God will provide for their needs
  • That God will strengthen the family in their faith, and draw many others in their community to Jesus through them
  • That the proposed amendments to the religion law will not be implemented.
Please give

You can hear more updates from the persecuted church, including how you can pray alongside our vulnerable brothers and sisters, by signing up to regular emails. As well as recent stories, you’ll have the opportunity to pray for every country on the Open Doors World Watch List throughout the year.

Get involved

Your support helps persecuted Christians continue to courageously follow Jesus. Together, we can reach those where persecution hits hardest.