Viet Nam is a multi-religion and multi-belief country. 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 economic and spiritual life.
Traditional belief: With the perception that every object has a soul, since the ancient time, the Vietnamese people have worshiped a large number of gods, especially those related to agriculture such as sun, moon, land, mountain, river and forest, etc. Each ethnic minority in Viet Nam has its own way of practicing its traditional beliefs, most noticeably those maintained by some ethnic groups such as Tay-Thai, Hmong-Dao, Hoa-San Diu-Ngai, Cham-Ede-Gia Rai, Mon-Khmer.
In addition, the most popular and time-honored custom of the Vietnamese people, including some ethnic minorities, is ancestor worship and commemoration of death anniversaries. Every Vietnamese family has an altar to worship their ancestors and attaches importance to the commemoration of death anniversaries of the predecessors. Beside ancestor worship in each family and each clan, many villages have a communal house or a temple to worship the Village Deity. The custom of worshiping the Village Deity is a unique feature of Vietnamese villages. The Village Deity worshiped in the village’s temple and communal house can be a god or an outstanding figure that rendered great service such as the forefather of a traditional handicraft or a national hero who greatly contributed to the cause of national building and fighting foreign invaders. The Vietnamese people also worship other gods like the Kitchen God and God of the Soil.
Religion: Viet Nam has six major religions, namely Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Muslim, Caodaism and Hoa Hao Buddhism.
Buddhism: Buddhism was first introduced in Viet Nam in the early years A.D. From the 10th to the 15th century, Buddhism developed rapidly in Viet Nam after Viet Nam had gained independence. Buddhism reached its extreme popularity under the Ly-Tran Dynasty (from the early 11th century to the late 14th century). King Tran Nhan Tong was the founder of the unique Truc Lam Yen Tu School of Zen, characterized by creativity, harmony and integration. Theravada Buddhism was first introduced in southern Viet Nam in the 4th century. Most Theravada Buddhist followers are Khmer people living in the Mekong Delta, thus called Khmer Theravada Buddhism. At present, there are 10 million Buddhist followers, 17,000 pagodas, 40,000 Buddhist monks, and 36 schools for Buddhism training in Viet Nam.
Catholicism: Historians believe that Catholicism was first introduced in Viet Nam in 1533. From 1533 to 1614, priests of Portuguese Order of St.Francis and Spanish Order of Preachers accompanied merchant ships to Viet Nam. From 1615 to 1665, priests of Portuguese Society of Jesus entered Viet Nam from Macau (China), both in Dang Trong (south of Gianh River) and Dang Ngoai (north of Gianh River). At present, Viet Nam Catholic Church has 26 dioceses, 6 million followers, 6,270 churches, 19,000 dignitaries, 6 grand seminaries, and 2 training schools.
Protestantism: Protestantism was first introduced in Viet Nam in the late 19th and early 20th century by the Christian and Missionary Alliance – CMA, later than other religions. 1911 is recognized as the beginning year when Protestantism was introduced into Viet Nam. At present, there are over one million Protestants, 500 dignitaries, 300 Protestant churches, and 01 biblical theology institute in Viet Nam.
Muslim: In Viet Nam, Muslim followers are mostly Cham people. According to historical records, the Cham were first introduced to Muslim in the 10th and 11th century. There are two schools of Muslim in Viet Nam: the older one (Cham Ba Ni) with followers in Binh Thuan and Ninh Thuan Provinces; and the newer one (Cham Islam) with followers in Chau Doc (An Giang Province), Ho Chi Minh City, Tay Ninh and Dong Nai Province. At present, there are 79 mosques, 72,000 Muslim followers and 700 dignitaries in Viet Nam.
Caodaism: Caodaism is an indigenous religion, officially established in Go Ken Pagoda, Tay Ninh Province in mid November 1926. At present, there are 2.4 million Cao Dai followers, 31,700 dignitaries and over 100 churches in Viet Nam.
Hoa Hao Buddhism: Hoa Hao Buddhism is another indigenous religion created by Huynh Phu So on July 4th May 1939 in Hoa Hao Village, An Giang Province. At present, there are 1.3 million Hoa Hao Buddhist followers, over 1,700 monks and 1,200 pagodas in Viet Nam.
Freedom of Belief and Religion: The right to freedom of belief and religion of all Vietnamese citizens is provided by the Constitution and ensured in practice. Article 70 of the Vietnamese 1992 Constitution stipulates: “Citizens have the right to freedom of belief and religion, and may practice or not practice any religion. All religions are equal before the law. Public places of religious worship are protected by law. No one has the right to infringe on the freedom of belief and religion or to take advantage of the latter to violate State laws and policies.”
The right to freedom of belief and religion is reflected in various legal documents. The Ordinance on Belief and Religion coming into force on 15 November 2004 has institutionalized state guidelines and policies on belief and religion and ensured the exercise of the right to freedom of belief and religion. All citizens, regardless of their belief and religion, are equal before the law, entitled to follow or not to follow a religion, entitled to express their beliefs, exercise worship rituals, pray and participate in religious activities and in the study of religious theories and ethics. All religious organizations are equal before the law. The State guarantees 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 and headquarters of religious organizations, religious schools, bibles and worshiping objects. On 1 March 2005, the Government issued Decree 22/2005/ND-CP guiding the implementation of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion.
Religious Practice: At present, there are about 20 million followers of 12 religions and 30 religious organizations recognized by the State, 83,368 dignitaries and monks, 25,331 religious establishments and many traditional worshiping places in Viet Nam.
Religious followers are free to practice religious ceremonies, express and exercise their religious beliefs. Religious dignitaries and monks are free to exercise religious activities in accordance with religious rules. The ordainment, appointment and reshuffle of dignitaries are carried out in accordance with church rules. Over the last years, religious organizations recognized by the State have developed in the number of establishments, followers, dignitaries, monks, worshiping places, prayer book publications and activities provided by its charter, statute, rules and laws. Dignitaries and monks enjoy the right to study and train at home or abroad, and participate in religious activities abroad. Many foreign religious organizations have come to Viet Nam for exchanges with local religious organizations.
Viet Nam successfully hosted the United Nations Day for Vesak 2008 from 13 May to 17 May 2008 in Ha Noi. Vesak Day was participated by almost 4,000 official delegates, including around 2,000 foreign delegates from 74 countries and territories and over 200 overseas Vietnamese delegates. Viet Nam will host the 6th World Buddhist Summit in 2010 in Ha Noi.
Religious Publications: The printing of prayer books and other religious publications are conducted regularly to meet the demand of religious activities in Viet Nam. In 2008, Religion Publishing House published 1,768,000 copies of 613 books and 297,200 copies of other 251 religious publications. Religious organizations also have their own publications like Buddhism Research Magazine, Giac Ngo Newspaper (Buddhism); Hiep Thong Review, Vietnamese Catholic Newspaper, Catholicism and the Nation Newspaper (Catholicism); Huong Sen Review (Hoa Hao Buddhism); Pastoral Bulletin and Spiritual Communication Bulletin (Protestantism).