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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Historic Gathering of Baptists Held In Vietnam

Here's a bit of international Baptist news on the religious liberty front.

According to the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper (and several other sources), a large gathering of Baptists will be held next week in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnam Grace Baptist Church (a denomination) will holds its first General Conference from January 10-12. An executive council is will be elected and a charter will be drafted. This gathering is a first step towards obtaining the Vietnamese Government's recognition of the Vietnam Grace Baptist Church's status as an official religious organization. In 2006, the Vietnam Grace Baptist Church received a license or religious certificate to legally hold worship services and other activities in Vietnam. The Religion News Blog notes that the Vietnam Grace Baptist Church came into being in the country in 1962 and its membership includes three pastors, 21 missionaries and 2,592 followers living mostly Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho city and the Mekong delta provinces of An Giang, Kien Giang, Ninh Thuan, Hau Giang and Soc Trang. In addition to the Vietnam Grace Baptist Church, there are four other Baptist groups in Vietnam which was recently listed as the 13th most populated country in the world.

Back in November of 2006 the U.S. State Department removed Vietnam from its list of the world's worst violators of religious freedom in spite of advice to the contrary from a nonpartisan panel. John Hanford, then the United States ambassador at large for international religious freedom, stated that "though important work remains to be done, Vietnam can no longer be identified as a severe violator of religious freedom" as defined under federal law. However, the nine-member U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom had previously urged the White House and Congress to keep Vietnam listed as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

The 2007 International Religious Freedom Report states that the Vietnamese Constitution provides for freedom of worship; however, government restrictions still remained on the organized activities of religious groups. Despite continued restrictions, the Government of Vietnam registered several new religious denominations during the reporting period including the Vietnam Grace Baptist Church.

For more information on the status of religious freedom in Vietnam and the efforts of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Baptist World Alliance in this area - see here and here (BWA statement).

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Anonymous Greg T. said...


Having been to Vietnam five times in the past years, I can say without a doubt that the picture isn't as rosey as depicted by Vietnam News Agency and Nhan Dan, the paper of the party there.

This meeting is about two things: 1) Infiltrating the free church movement there, and 2) finding out where the outside support for groups like the Baptists come from. We should keep Vietnam on the Countries of Particular Concern list until they grant full religious liberty to their citizens -- especially to the Montagnards, or ethnic minority hilltribes where the faith is spreading like wildfire.

7:37 PM


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