Christianity enters Vietnam


Christianity was introduced to Vietnam within the 16th century by missionaries from Europe’s main Catholic evangelist international locations, France, Spain and Portugal. One of the early arrivals was Alexander de Rhodes, a French Jesuit who significantly impressed the Trinh lords who ruled the north at that time, thus easing the best way for permanent missions in Hanoi, Danang and Hoi An.


Expulsion from Vietnam


Because the creator of the Romanized written type of the Vietnamese language, Alexander de Rhodes could justifiably be thought of as one of many founding fathers of recent Vietnam. Nonetheless, his reward was expulsion together with all the opposite Christians when the Trinh lords decided that Christianity in the type of Catholicism was subverting the beliefs that saved them in power. Other than its later use within the Catholic Church in Vietnam, his script was ignored until the 20th century.


Nevertheless, de Rhodes continued to proselytize by the Society des Mission Estrangers, a French evangelical organization he helped to create, looking for converts all through Indochina. Within the following years, Catholicism was re-established in Vietnam and grew rapidly.


Oppression under Minh Mang 


By the start of the nineteenth century, there have been many hundreds of Catholics in Vietnam. Catholicism’s relationship with Vietnam’s rulers was uneasy: the kings had been wary of its doctrine of equality in the eyes of God, a belief that directly challenged the feudal Confucian system that legitimated their control.


Below King Ming Minh, a strict Confucian, suspicion turned to oppression. Church buildings have been razed, and Vietnamese and international devotees refusing to resign their religion were executed.


Enter the French


Minh Mang’s excesses, although a lot exaggerated, gave the French the excuse they have been searching for to invade, and Catholicism was reinstated. The Catholic Church flourished under the colonialists’ patronage, opening missions, schools and hospitals all over the country, and becoming Vietnam’s largest landowner. Vietnamese Catholics had been favoured above their compatriots and have become informed elite.


An exodus to the south


By the Fifties, with the communists governing in the north, over half a million Catholics crossed the demilitarized zone to settle in the south, then managed by the Saigon regime led by President Ngo Dinh Diem, a Catholic. Those who remained within the north had been allowed to proceed to practice their religion, however underneath tight control.


The put up-war years


After reunification, the communists positioned restrictions on the Catholic Church and imprisoned several of its leaders who had actively opposed the new government. Since then, controls have relaxed and relationships between Vietnam and the Vatican have turn out to be cordial. However, a papal visit to the second-largest Catholic population in Southeast Asia remains to be some way off.


The Protestant faith


Protestantism was primarily introduced by the Americans within the south in the form of militant evangelism, and now claims approximately half a million adherents. Many of these are within the ethnic teams of the Central Highlands. In recent times, there was appreciable unrest in the area. American ‘Gospel’ organisations regularly issue ‘reviews’ alleging human rights abuse and denial of religious freedom. Placing apart the issue of differing perceptions between the US and Asia about what constitutes ‘human rights’, a trawl of the Internet soon reveals that the purpose of many such groups are more political than religious.


The buildings


From a customer’s viewpoint, many Catholic churches are properly value a visit. The Gothic edifices of Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Hue and Da Lat are replicas of European cathedrals, and infrequently constructed of imported materials. They’ve engaging features, but the house-grown merchandise is of better curiosity to the traveler.


The famous ‘Stone Church’


In particular, the ‘Stone Church’ of Phat Diem within the north, the bell tower of which was immortalized by Graham Greene in ‘The Quiet American’, is a highly satisfying blend of Christianity and the orient. The lifetime achievement of a Vietnamese cleric, Father Tran Luc, it is an architectural gem combining what looks like a Vietnamese temple at first sight with Christian symbolism and statuary. The interior is beautiful – a 75m roof supported by huge ironwood pillars and a powerful altarpiece.


Unusual church buildings


Most of the churches in the Central Highlands also mix Western and Eastern types and some have extremely unusual options, reflecting the realm’s strong animist tradition.


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