Overview of Religion and Belief in Vietnam
Vietnam is a country which has a rich and wide variety of religions. These include religions based on popular beliefs, religions brought to Vietnam from the outside, and several indigenous religious groups.
As with other countries, the Vietnamese have several popular beliefs, such as animism and theism. The most widespread popular belief among the Vietnamese is the belief in ancestor-worship.
In regard to the major world religions, Vietnam is a multi-religious state, with more than 20 million believers, and more than 30,000 places of worship. Buddhism is the largest of the major world religions in Vietnam, with about ten million followers. It was the earliest foreign religion to be introduced in Vietnam, arriving from India in the second century A.D. in two ways, the Mahayana sect via China, and the Hinayana sect via Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. During the ten-century feudal reign of Vietnam, Buddhism was considered a state religion. At present, Vietnam has more than 20,000 pagodas dedicated to Buddha, with a large number of other pagodas being built or restored.
The second largest foreign religion in Vietnam is Catholicism, with about six million followers. Catholicism was introduced to Vietnam by Spanish, Portuguese, and French missionaries early in the 17th century. There are now more than 6,000 churches engaged in religious activities throughout the country. More than 500 churches damaged during the U.S. air war against Vietnam are being rebuilt.
Protestantism came to Vietnam in 1911, and was widely spread throughout Vietnam in 1920, but the number of Protestants in Vietnam is not very large. Islam was introduced to Vietnam long ago, but did not flourish.
In addition to these religions originating in other parts of the world, Vietnam has indigenous religions, such as the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao sects, with their holy lands in the city of Tay Ninh and the provinces of Chau Doc and An Giang in the Mekong Delta. The Vietnamese religions have never opposed or competed with one another, but were united in a national united front, the Vietnam Fatherland Front, peacefully coexisting in the Vietnamese community, and contributing to the struggle against foreign aggression for national construction.