Many of Vietnam's 54 ethnic groups are marginalised and at the bottom of the rung economically and in terms of literacy rates.
Yet, it’s among these marginalised groups that Christianity has often taken a hold. This is why the Vietnam Bible Society is undertaking the critical task of translating the Bible into their various heart languages.
The Hmong people live in Vietnam’s northern highlands. In the 1980s, the Hmong stumbled across a Hmong-language Christian radio programme being broadcast from Manila. Soon, Christianity spread like wildfire through the Hmong population. Today, 300,000 out of the one million Hmong living in Vietnam is Christian.
The Bunong are another minority group amongst whom Christianity has taken hold.
Mainly from the north-eastern mountainous region of Cambodia, their province was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the target of US bombing during the Vietnam War.
At that time many Bunong fled to Vietnam where they heard the Gospel message. In 1986, 150 of them returned to their province establishing an indigenous Bunong church there. In 2016, they received the New Testament and they are now longing for the full Bible.
The Stieng people also live on either side of the border in Vietnam and Cambodia, and they suffered greatly during the Vietnam War. Stieng evangelists brought them the Gospel in the 1980s and today 80 percent of them profess Christianity.
Dieu Kanh* is a Stieng man who became a Christian in 1972. At that time sharing the Gospel was illegal. He and other villagers used to study the Word at midnight, and all sermons were preached in the forest. In 1980, Dieu Kanh received a Vietnamese Bible.
“At that time nobody had a Bible in my area, so I was happy to receive it, but I could not understand it well. At this time, I started praying for a Bible in our native language of Stieng,” said Dieu Kanh.
When Dieu Kanh heard that the Vietnam Bible Society was starting a Bible translation in the Stieng language, tears of joy could be seen on his face. “I am sure that God who began this good work in translation will carry it on until it is finished,” he said.
Finally, the Cham people number around 80,000 and live along the coastline of southern Vietnam. As a small group, they have experienced much poverty and hardship. The Vietnam Bible Society’s translation project for the Cham people is due for completion this year.
Rut lives in a Cham village in Vietnam. When he first became a Christian 15 years ago, none of the other villagers would speak to him, but when they saw how much his life had been blessed their attitude changed.
At Rut’s church, the pastor preaches in Cham but reads the Bible in Vietnamese, because there is no Cham Bible. “I am so excited to know that a translation team is currently working on translating the Bible into Cham. I can’t wait to have the Bible in our language,” says Cham.
As you’ve read in this story, there are many amongst the Hmong, the Bunong, the Stieng and the Cham who are longing to receive the Bible in their heart language. The Vietnam Bible Society currently has translation teams working on Bible translation projects for these groups. Will you partner with us to help bring the Bible to these people in their heart languages?
* Not his real name.