Buddhism was adopted as the state religion of Vietnam in the first century AD, but when the communist government came to power, all religion was suppressed. Despite years of suppression, the united Buddhist church is now sanctioned by the government, and Buddhist thinking remains ingrained in the national mindset.
Approximately 54% of Vietnamese people call themselves Buddhist. Yet Buddhism, as purely defined, is hard to find. Most Vietnamese people have a medley of beliefs including aspects of Buddhism, traditional Vietnamese religions and other Asian philosophies such as Daoism and Confucianism. They will call themselves Buddhists, but will not distinguish between ancestor worship and superstitious beliefs. Indeed the spirit world has become a source of fear in the lives of many.
Yet many Buddhist groups do make significant contributions to society, especially to the poor and needy. Many homes for the elderly and orphanages are run by Buddhist groups. One Buddhist group, the “Flower Buddhists” who are seen as a sect in Vietnam, provides food for hospital patients throughout Ho Chi Minh City. Committed members of this group give up a month of their time to rise at 3am and cook throughout the day. These volunteers are often subsistence farmers from the rural areas, so their sacrifice and commitment is substantial.
Though the Vietnamese government has a policy of religious freedom, like all religions, Buddhists face difficulties in Vietnam. In recent years conflicts with local authorities over land for monasteries has caused much tension and some outspoken monks have faced arrest and imprisonment.
Will you pray for Vietnam?
- Pray for God to show himself as the truth to those who worship other Gods.
- Pray that the evangelical church in Vietnam (ECVN) would be challenged by the response of Buddhist groups to the social needs in Vietnam
- Ask God to give Christians creative ways to reach Buddhists.