Reflections on religion and culture in Vietnam
Judith, our Rector, has asked her husband to write about his time in Vietnam.
Before anything else, thank you to those who cared for Judith when she was ill whilst I was abroad and thank you for the prayers for me. I missed you.
Although Vietnam is firmly a Communist country, its official policy is that of religious tolerance. Christians, most of whom are Roman Catholics, make up eight percent of the population. In the large town of Lao Cai, where I was, the Catholic Church was undoubtedly thriving. The main morning service had between 100 and 200 people present, of all ages.
Remarkably, in the 20 months that I was there, the number of churches in the town grew from one to three. I was privileged to attend the opening ceremony for a new church on the other side of town from the mother church, and then, just about a month before coming back to the UK, I was invited to a service for the ‘laying of the first brick’ for another church to be built in a village about five miles away. I remember standing on the caterpillar tracks of a large digger to get a better view, as the priest went round consecrating a large area of mud, ready for work to begin the next morning.
One thing I did come to realise is that, in spite of the fact that in rural areas, the church sometimes appears to be struggling, England’s Christian heritage really does have an enormous impact on our value systems. We have certain values in our society which we rate as important, whether we call ourselves Christians or not, including fairness and honesty. These, to my mind, are rated lower in Vietnam, and we in the UK should be grateful for our heritage.