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International Peacemaker from Vietnam faces significant challenges

Manh Nguyen leading people to Christ in communist country

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Manh Nguyen, 2017 Presbyterian International Peacemaker. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE — Building a church and its membership from the ground up is no small feat. Doing it in a country that persecutes members of your faith makes it doubly difficult. But the Rev. Manh Nguyen, pastor at the Evangelical Community Church in Hanoi, Vietnam, continues to grow his church despite a government that frowns upon religion in general, and Christians specifically.

The Vietnamese Law on Belief and Religion, which takes effect January 1, 2018, regulates procedures and conditions regarding people’s beliefs. Proponents claim it offers everyone the right to experience religious practices and attend religious events. Critics claim it restricts religious freedom. Faith-based groups must register with government authorities and inform them of their activities, and authorities have the right to refuse the activity.

“Vietnam is still a communist country, it’s not Christian-friendly,” said Nguyen. “Christians still face violence and persecution in Vietnam and the government doesn’t want people to be evangelized, so that’s a challenge. We have to lead people to Christ.”

Nguyen, who studied theology in the Philippines, returned to Vietnam in 2011 to work as a minister. With the help of his wife, he started the Evangelical Community Church in Hanoi about three years ago and is its current pastor. Vietnam, which reunified in 1975 after the war, features a Christian population estimated to be somewhere between two and five percent of the total population, with the majority living in the south where there is more freedom for pastors to evangelize. Despite the obstacles faced by Vietnamese Christians, their numbers appear to be on the rise. Some of that growth comes from working with tribal people and ethnic minorities.

“The evangelical church in Vietnam is growing right now, but it is still far from what we hope it to be, or want it to be,” said Nguyen. “We can see that God’s hand is moving among the Vietnamese and more people are open to the gospel, particularly young people who are searching for the truth. Once they have an opportunity to hear Christ they are opening their hearts to accept him into their life.”

Nguyen is one of 15 International Peacemakers currently visiting churches and organizations across the country sharing their experiences from their native countries. They will reunite in Louisville later this month to debrief on their time in the US before heading back home. Since 1984, more than 300 International Peacemakers from as many as 57 countries have been hosted by 160 Presbyterian organizations. Click here for more information about this year’s group.

“Many people have different approaches to helping others; for me, I try to bring people to Christ,” said Nguyen. “Christ will set them free from the slavery of sins. In all my works and efforts, I try my best to introduce Christ to the Vietnamese people; that is the main purpose of my life.”

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