The cost of being a Christian? 100 kilos of pork

Lohn and his family(Photo: Open Doors International)

A Christian family from northern Vietnam has been made to pay their community in 100 kilograms of pork to stop them from further persecution.

Lohn (not his real name), 40, his wife and four children converted to Christianity from their animistic beliefs in August this year. Shortly after their conversion, they were harassed by the local authorities and villagers for leaving their tribal religion.

When they refused to deny their newly-found faith, the head of the village and some of the villagers beat Lohn, confiscated the family's Christian literature and threatened them with worse consequences if they continued.

When Lohn and his family persisted, the local authorities and the villagers demanded that they pay $90 and give them 100 kilos of pork worth roughly $600.

The villagers said the money and the meat – alone, worth four months' wages – would serve as an offering "to appease the gods of the village", and the villagers would perform a ritual to officially announce the family's conversion to Christianity.

Through the help of the Church, Lohn was able to provide what was demanded by the community. During the ritual, the head of the village proclaimed that Lohn's family was henceforth considered outcasts.

Following the "official" recognition of their Christian faith, Lohn and his family can now practise it without facing harassment and persecution.

"We don't know if the future will still be the same for us here in the village," Lohn told the Christian anti-persecution charity Open Doors. "But for now, we praise God that we can freely worship Him."

Vietnam is number 19 on Open Doors' World Watch List, a ranking of 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.

Christians from non-traditional denominations and converts from indigenous religions face intensive pressure and violence for their Christian faith, especially in the remote areas of central and northern Vietnam.

Most belong to the country's ethnic minorities, like the Hmong, and face social exclusion, discrimination and attacks. Their homes are sometimes destroyed and they are then forced to leave their villages. In several cases, Christians fled abroad and claimed asylum, for example in neighbouring Cambodia, but were sent back due to the pressure from Vietnam.