The word “Vietnam” speaks of the tenacious Viet culture and its varied, yet distinct cuisine and social customs that have survived invasions and colonisation. Nam (south) refers to the expansion to the south from the original north and central domain. Long and narrow, Vietnam lies on the eastern coast of Southeast Asia’s Indochinese Peninsula. Laos and Cambodia are on its western border with China to its north. Vietnam and its young population are emerging from its tumultuous past drawing visitors and investment to this country ready for change.
Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed in Vietnam, but new regulations in 2005 required religious groups to register with the government. Most churches have been denied registration and have faced harassment and even persecution. Many Vietnamese traditionally follow Buddhism, though the veneration and worship of ancestors is an underestimated practice found throughout Vietnam. Churches are persevering and the number of evangelicals is growing as the Vietnamese experience the challenges of the current economic and social changes.