Viet Nam of Religion and Beliefs

Viet Nam is a country of many religions and beliefs. The Vietnamese people have a time-honored tradition of practicing their beliefs. Different ethnic groups in Viet Nam have different beliefs linked to their own material and spiritual lives.

Traditional beliefs: With the perception that every object has a soul, since the ancient time, the Vietnamese worshiped a large number of gods, especially those related to agriculture such as the sun, the moon, land, mountain, river and forest, etc., for good luck. Each ethnic minority in Viet Nam has its own way of practicing belief, which is still maintained by some ethnic groups such as Tay-Thai, Hmong-Dao, Hoa-San Diu-Ngai, Cham-Ede-GiaRai and Mon-Khmer.

In addition, the most popular and time-honored custom of the Vietnamese and some ethnic minorities is ancestor worship and commemoration of death anniversaries. Every Vietnamese family has an altar to worship their ancestors and attach importance to the commemoration of death anniversaries and acknowledgement of the service rendered by the predecessors. Besides ancestor worship in each family and each clan, many villages have a communal house and a temple to worship the village Deity. The custom of worshiping the village Deity and the communal house are the unique features of Vietnamese villages. The village Deity worshiped in the village’s temple or communal house can be a Deity or an outstanding figure who rendered great service such as the forefather of a traditional handicraft or a national hero who recorded glorious feats in nation building and in the wars against foreign aggression. The Vietnamese people also worship different gods such as the kitchen god or god of the soil, etc.

Religions: Viet Nam has recognized and granted permits to 37 religious associations and sects, and one devotional practice under 13 religions, encompassing over 24 million followers (accounting for 27% of national population), 83,000 dignitaries, 250,000 sub-dignitaries, 46 dignitary-training schools (equivalent to college and post-graduate levels), and 25,000 worshipping establishments.

Vietnam hosted the UN Vesak Day in 2019. (Photo: VNA)

Vietnam hosted the UN Vesak Day in 2019. (Photo: VNA)

There are 06 major religions in Viet Nam, namely Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Muslim, Caodaism and HoaHao Buddhism.

Buddhism: Buddhism was introduced in Viet Nam in the early years A.D. From the 10th century to 15th century, Buddhism in Viet Nam witnessed rapid growth along with national independence. It entered golden age under the Ly-Tran Dynasty (from early 11th century to late 14th century). King Tran Nhan Tong was the founder of Truc Lam Yen Tu School of Zen characterized with Vietnamese culture and tradition, creativity, inclusiveness and life integration. Theravada Buddhism was first introduced in Southern Viet Nam in the 4th century AD. This sect was also called Khmer Theravada Buddhism since most of its followers were Khmer people residing in the Mekong River Delta. There are currently about 11 million Buddhist followers, more than 17,000 pagodas, nearly 47,000 Buddhist monks, 04 Buddhist Institutes, 09 Buddhist Colleges and 31 Buddhist training schools in Viet Nam.

Catholicism:  Catholicism was introduced in Viet Nam in the 15th century by European missionaries. Catholicism was first popular in coastal provinces such as Thai Binh, Nam Dinh, Ninh Binh, Thanh Hoa and Nghe An, etc., then spread throughout the Red River delta and cities. At present, there are approximately 6.5 million Catholics, 42 bishops, about 4,000 priests, over 100 religious orders, societies and congregations with more than 17,000 priest members, 26 dioceses and 07 grand seminaries in Viet Nam.

Protestantism: Protestantism was introduced in Viet Nam in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, it was not until 1920 that Protestantism became popular all over the country. At present, there are over 1.5 million Protestant followers in 10 organizations and sects; approximately 3,000 dignitaries, nearly 400 worshipping places, and 01 Biblical Theology Institute and 01 Bible school in Viet Nam.

Muslim: In Viet Nam, most Muslims are Cham people. Muslim religion was introduced in Viet Nam by the Cham people in the 10th and 11th centuries. There are two schools of Muslim in Viet Nam: orthodox Muslim with followers who are Cham people from Chau Doc, Ho Chi Minh city, Tay Ninh and Dong Nai provinces; and non-orthodox Muslim (or Cham Ba Ni) with followers who are Cham people from Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan provinces. At present, there are about 80,000 Muslims with 89 mosques, 1,062 dignitaries, and 07 Islam organizations licensed by the State.

Caodaism: Caodaism is an indigenous religion created in Tay Ninh province in 1926. Caodaism worships three Supreme Beings namely Buddha, Jesus Christ and Cao Dai God. At present, there are 2.5 million Cao Dai followers of 10 sects, 01 devotional practice, over 10,000 dignitaries and over 1,200 temples in 37 provinces and cities in Viet Nam.

HoaHao Buddhism: HoaHao, also called HoaHao Buddhism, is an indigenous religion created in 1939 in Hoa Hao Village, Tan Chau District, An Giang Province. This religious sect is concentrated in the Mekong River delta and its membership is estimated at about 1.3 million including 2,528 sub – dignitaries and 94 pagodas in 20 provinces and cities.

Other religions in Viet Nam include the Vietnamese Pure Land Buddhism Association, Baha’i Religious Community of Viet Nam, Buu Son Ky Huong, Tu An Hieu Nghia, Minh Su Theravada Buddhist Sect, Minh Ly Sect and Brahman with nearly 1.3 million followers. In additions, there are approximately 20 independent Cao Dai organizations, 40 groups and orders of Protestantism…

It is Viet Nam’s consistent policy to respect and create favorable conditions for the people to exercise their right to freedom of belief and religion. Viet Nam attaches great importance to the policy of unity and harmony among religions; cultural and moral values of all religions are promoted. The State ensures the right to freedom of belief and religion, protection of the facilities and assets of religious establishments, such as pagodas, churches, mosques, oratories, sanctuaries, temples, headquarters of religious organizations, religious schools, bibles and worshipping objects. The right to freedom of belief and religion is enshrined in the Constitution and ensured in reality. Article 24 of the 2013 Constitution (amended) of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam clearly states: Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion; following or not following any religion. All religions are equal before the law. The State respects and ensures the right to freedom of belief and religion. It is prohibited to infringe on the freedom of belief and religion of others or to take advantage of this freedom to violate State law and policies.

The people’s right to freedom of belief and religion is concretized in many other legal normative documents. The Ordinance on Belief and Religion entering into force on 15 November 2004 has institutionalized state policies on belief and religion and ensured the exercise of the right to freedom of belief and religion. On 1st March 2005, the Government issued Decree 22/2005/ND-CP guiding the implementation of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion. Based on the reality of Viet Nam, in November 2012 Viet Nam issued Decree No.92/2012/ND-CP stipulating measures to implement the Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions with new improvements aiming at facilitating religious activities of the people.

Religious practice of followers: In Viet Nam, 95% of the population has religious faiths. Each year, there are about 8,500 religious and belief activities to be organized nationally and locally.

Religious followers enjoy freedom in the practice of religious ceremonies and in the expression and exercise of the beliefs. The ordainment, appointment and secondment of dignitaries are carried out in accordance with church rules. Over the last years, religious organizations recognized by the State have developed in terms of the number of establishments, followers, dignitaries… Dignitaries and monks have been trained or participating in religious activities at home and abroad. A number of foreign religious organizations have come to Viet Nam for exchanges with local religious organizations.

In 2008, The Buddhist Sangha of Viet Nam successfully hosted the United Nations Day for Vesak and is scheduled to host Vesak 2014 in Viet Nam. Viet Nam has successfully hosted many religious events such as: the 6th World Buddhist Summit in 2010 in Hanoi; the 2011th Jubilee of the Catholic Church. Celebrating 100 years of Protestantism in Viet Nam, in 2011, many activities were held in Ha Noi, DaNang and Ho Chi Minh City with the participation of a large number of Protestant dignitaries and followers from inside Viet Nam and abroad. The Plenary Meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) was held in Viet Nam in December 2012 with the participation of many bishops from Asian countries and representatives of the Vatican.

Religious Publications: Bibles, prayer books and other religious publications are printed on a regular basis to meet the demand of religious activities in Viet Nam. Most religious organizations have their own newspapers, magazines and bulletins like Buddhism Research Magazine, Giac Ngo Newspaper (Buddhism); Hiep Thong Review, Vietnamese Catholic Newspaper, Catholicism and the Nation Newspaper (Catholicism); Huong Sen Review (HoaHao Buddhism); Pastoral Bulletin and Spiritual Communication Bulletin (Protestantism).

Religion Publishing House licensed 1,006 publications with 2,555,401 copies in 2012, and 978 publications with 2,731,800 copies in 2013.


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