“Would you like a glass of grape juice?” Hien asked. It seemed like a straightforward enough question, but the grape juice had just been taken from the family altar. Hien makes daily offerings of incense, food and flowers to the spirits of her deceased parents. According to her ID card and her own description, Hien is Buddhist. But above the family altar she has the symbol of Cao Daism, a religious movement unique to Vietnam. In other rooms, Hien also has smaller altars to the “Kitchen God” and other deities. Like most Vietnamese, Hien is very afraid of ghosts.
Most homes in Vietnam have an altar used to worship the family’s ancestors. Often incorporated into larger pieces of furniture, doubling as a TV cabinet or bookshelf, they are elaborately decorated with lanterns, incense and offering bowls along with photographs of deceased relatives.
The spirit world is viewed as a continuation of life, so dead ancestors still need material goods. These are provided by burning paper money, cars and other items. When the family receives a gift, such as a box of chocolates, the gift will be placed on the altar for the ancestors to enjoy first. After a few days it is acceptable for the family to remove it and eat or drink it themselves. Because they believe their ancestors can influence their lives for good or bad, families make these offerings to their ancestors to keep them appeased.
Because of their involvement with the spirits, new believers often need to be taught that Jesus, their Saviour, is above all powers.
Will you pray for Vietnam?
- Pray against the fear that grips many hearts as they strive to please the spirits.
- Ask the Lord to break through the traditional worship superstitions that are a barrier to belief in Jesus.
- Pray for people to believe that Jesus is “over all creation” (Colossians 1:15) and through him they can be set free from spiritual bondage.