Vietnam Religions

Vietnam possesses a rich mixture of religions, which reflects the influence of many cultures. Among major religions in Vietnam, there are six official ones: Buddhism, Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism, and two indigenous religious traditions emerging during the colonial period, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao. In addition, Hinduism is also a prevailing religion followed by the Cham ethnic minority in the Southern Vietnam. According to the constitution, every Vietnamese citizen is given the freedom of religion, but their right is often constrained, particularly with regard to any religious activities that could become a forum for dissent. Each religion with its particular practice and rituals not only makes Vietnamese spiritual life more colorful and unique but also has a profound impact on the people as well as their culture.

The Mahayana tradition of Buddhism is the most dominant religion in Vietnam, and over two-thirds of Vietnamese regard themselves as Buddhist. This religion was probably introduced into Vietnam during a period of Chinese occupation by a monk called Mau Tu in the second century AD. Between 1010 and 1214, the Ly dynasty made Buddhism a state religion.

Roman Catholicism was first brought to Vietnam by Portuguese Catholic missionaries in the sixteenth century and further bolstered its presence during French colonial period. While the earliest missions did not gain very impressive results, the later missionaries by Jesuits in 1916 notched up notable success in the establishing Christian centers within the local population.

Islam is mainly followed by Cham people, an ethnic minority group residing primarily in the Ninh Thuan province, Binh Thuan province, Ho Chi Minh City, An Giang province and other provinces in the Central and the South of Vietnam, but about one-third of the Muslims in Vietnam belong to mixed ethnic origins (Cham, Khmer, Malay, Minang, Viet, Chinese and Arab).

In 1911, Robert A. Jaffray, a Canadian missionary first introduced this religion at Da Nang. Then, over 100 missionaries as members of the Christian and Missionary Alliance were sent to Vietnam to promote the faith's growth in the country.

Cao Dai is an indigenous religious movement having been officially established since 1926 in Tây Ninh, a province located in the southern of Vietnam which now becomes Caodaism's major centre of worship.

Hoa Hao is an indigenous religious tradition, a variant of Buddhism practiced in the Mekong Delta. It was founded by Huynh Phu So who is called a prophet by adherents. He simplified the complicated elements of Buddhism and made it more accessible and popular with the ordinary people.

In addition to Islam, adherence to Hinduism in Vietnam is primarily associated with the Cham ethnic minority in Ninh Thuan province who built lots of sanctuaries. My Son Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is perhaps the most renowned religious complex of the Champ Kingdom.

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