Missionaries Forced to Leave
The government of the unified Communist Vietnam ordered all the missionaries to leave, and for the next 10 years few foreigners were able to enter the country until the change of economic policy, doi moi (renovation), came into effect.
Although the Communists closed half the 600 church buildings that existed when they took over, the church has grown significantly. In 1975 there were around 150,000 evangelicals, but this rose to an estimated 1.2 million in 2002. According to Operation World, there are approximately 1.5 million evangelicals in Vietnam today.
Growth Amidst Constraint
Approximately two-thirds of these believers are among Vietnam’s ethnic minority groups. The Hmong have been particularly responsive: in 1975 there were no known believers; today, more than 150,000 Hmong have come to believe, mainly through Christian radio broadcasts.
The growth of the church in Vietnam has taken place amidst considerable persecution, as Christians were seen as counter-revolutionary and a potential threat to the authorities. Pastors and lay people alike have been imprisoned, particularly among the minority groups and unregistered house churches. Christians tend to be treated as second-class citizens.
Government restrictions are most severe in the north, where there are still only about 15 registered churches, and in the capital, Hanoi, where there is only one. (Hundreds of minority congregations are currently awaiting registration.) In the south of the country there are fewer restrictions and now more than 1,000 registered churches and meeting places, including more than 50 in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).