Religion Vietnam

In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (founded on Marxist principles), atheism plays a significant role. The government does not encourage religion of any denomination, although the population is free to practise any religion as long as it does not challenge the laws or politics of the land. All religions, including atheism, are seen as equal in the eyes of the state. The most prevalent religions in Vietnam are Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism. These are mixed with animism and worship of ancestors and spirits, and are more or less fused together into one religion, Tam Giao. Most Vietnamese would refer to themselves as Buddhist or Taoist, although very little distinction can be found in practice. The Buddhist pagodas contain a mish-mash of Buddha statues, statues of Vietnamese forefathers, Hindu swastikas and Taoist symbols, particularly yin and yang. There are about 5 million Roman Catholics, around Ho Chi Minh City and among the mountain folk. There is also a small minority of Animists, Muslims and Hindus. There are also two religious sects that were founded in the 20thcentury; both are unique to Vietnam, Cao Dai and Hoa Hao. Cao Dai was founded in 1926 by the Vietnamese medium Ngo Minh Chieu and is comprised of what he saw as the best aspects of both Eastern and Western religions (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, Spiritism and ancestor-worship). There is one god, named Cao Dai. Mediums provide contact with the god and the spirit world during séances. The medium would receive messages from religious figures such as the Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tse, Confucious and Mohammed, and also from historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Napoleon, Churchill, Victor Hugo and Shakespeare. Cao Dai has a religious hierarchy much like that of the Roman Catholic Church, with a Pope, cardinals, bishops and priests. Their robes differ in colour to their ordinary followers’ clothes. Now there are about 3 million followers of Cao Dai, especially in South Vietnam. The centre of the religion is the city of Tay Ninh, approximately 60 miles from Ho Chi Minh City. In the colourful temple in Tay Ninh there are meditation and prayer services every day around midday, and visitors can watch these services from the balcony.