The library has been established by the Bible Society Vietnam in Ho Chi Minh City. “We hope it will be a symbol of Christian unity and learning”, they say.
The first Christian public library opened in Vietnam last July, after the approval of several agencies of Vietnam’s Communist government. The process took six months.
The library, located in Vietnam’s biggest city, Ho Chi Minh City, has been established by the Bible Society Vietnam, with local Protestant business people.
Since its opening, it has already stocked around 5000 titles, including Vietnamese texts and resources in biblical studies, theology, ministry, translations and history. Commentaries, philosophy and sociology books in English can also be found.
“This is the first time that Vietnamese Protestants pooled collective efforts in order to establish a proper library in Vietnam. We hope it will be a symbol of Christian unity and Christian learning in the country”, Vu Le, executive director of Bible Society Vietnam, told Australian news website Eternity.
The library is “the only alternative” for Vietnamese Christians to have access to those materials, because the libraries of theological colleges and seminaries are not open to the public, and local churches “only have what they call ‘reading rooms’, with very few books”, Le explained.
Some of its resources have come through its subscription as a member of the Global Digital Theological Library, an online archive of high-quality religious study material for academic institutions, which plans to have a digital archive of Vietnamese Protestantism, according to Le.
Furthermore, many Vietnamese Christians have already donated to the library. “They have their own personal library and decided to put it in the Christian library, because it would be a place for all”.
The executive director of Bible Society Vietnam hopes that “through the library, students of the theological programs at home will have resources; church workers will engage with more biblical and theological materials; and lay people would like to know more of the Bible and Christian theology”.
“We also want Vietnamese Christian business people to engage and collaborate more with the Christian ministries, and for the Bible Society to continue to promote the work of Bible engagement in Vietnam”, he added.
The main religion in Vietnam is Buddhism. Christians represent 10% of the population, most of them are Catholic.
In order to receive an official status as a religious organisation, Christian churches must register with the government. The Bible Society cannot have such a status because it is not a church,so that it operates as a business, supporting the work of the churches.
“Religious persecution is real and all Christian operations are working in a politically hostile environment. There is always a risk of being shut down suddenly”, Le stressed. Vietnam ranks 19 in the Open Doors 2021 World Watch List.
However, “the State tolerates some of our activities, such as operating a Bible Society and opening a library”, the executive director of Bible Society Vietnam concluded.