US artist Heather McClellan has lived in Vietnam for over six years. She considers this country her second home where her family members not only work, study and have amazing bonding activities with each other and dear friends; but also spend every Sunday attending mass at a nearby branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints at Trung Yen Street in Hanoi.

Participating in the mass with their fellow LDS Church believers eases their homesickness and strengthens bond between them and their second home, Vietnam.

Today, the youngest man of the McClellans, Rexy, is chosen to deliver a speech in Primary session as part of the Sunday mass. His confidence when sharing what he knows about the God and Saints makes her daddy and mommy proud as it proves that their decision to bring the whole family to Vietnam is right.

As parents, the McClellans values their life away from home as a golden opportunity for their kids to learn and grow up.

In order to ensure their kids stay on the right path, they often gather after family dinner on Sunday for an activity called ‘Family home evening’ to share what they’ve done throughout the week and the lessons they have learned, before praying together. They are part of frequent activities organized by the LDS Church, a religion that highly values family bonds.

With some 16 million followers, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints is among various globally recognised religions.

The Vietnamese government in May 2016 recognised and approved the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints in the country.

Since then, Vietnam has welcomed many “brothers”, or evangelists, from the Church, and the religion has grown rapidly.

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints is among religious organisations operating in Vietnam, where people live like a family in a common house alongside 16 officially-recognised religions, including the world’s big religions of Buddhism, Christianity, Muslim and local religions of Cao Dai and Hoa Hao.

For thousands of years, Buddhism has remained the most influential religion in Vietnam. However, Christianity has the most followers in the southeast Asian country where more than 24.3 million people are followers of religions, accounting for 27% of the population.

Easter is among the major Christian celebrations. When the day arrives, hundreds of Christians flock to St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi. Some are tourists and some are overseas workers, while others are students or people who have lived in Vietnam for a long time.

In order to meet religious demand of the ever-rising number of foreign Christians in Vietnam, some churches in big cities such as St. Joseph’s Cathedral and Cua Bac church in Hanoi, and Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh City hold Sunday masses in English and French besides Vietnamese. Each mass often draws 200 to 300 Christians from all over the world.

To carry out their missionary work in the 16th century, European evangelists traveled far and wide, and Vietnam was among their destinations. Over 400 years have gone by, and the country now is home to 5.9 million Christians, accounting for 44.6% of Vietnamese religious followers and 6.1% of the country’s total population.

Religious activities in Vietnam have greatly facilitated religious diplomacy and people-to-people exchanges, through which images of a friendly Vietnam committed to promoting human rights and freedom of religions are promoted.

As a home for many religions, Vietnam is also a destination for Muslims though they only account for a small proportion of population at 0.075%.

Laying humble in Hang Luoc street, a tranquil street in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, Jamaia Al Noor Mosque is crowded with Muslims from different countries every Friday.

Among those devout Muslims, Khalil has not missed a prayer session on Friday afternoon for ten years, except when he was away from Hanoi. It could be said that the Mosque is his second home in Vietnam while other Muslims here are his family. 

Jamia Al Noor was the second Mosque built in Vietnam, and the only one of its kind in the North of the country. 

It opens every Friday for not only Muslims but also non-religious people who are interested in religions in general and Islam in particular. 

Religions are bridges connecting people with the same belief. Indeed, through religious activities, one might find good friends who share common religious values. 

The International Day of Vesak 2019 held from May 12 to 14 in the northern province of Ha Nam was an occasion for Buddhist monks, nuns and followers from all over the world to meet and make friends.

Such a friendship was established between Indonesian Buddhist follower Chairrudin Kuslan and Taiwanese Bhikkhu Chunming Chen. They were total strangers until the first day of Vesak, when they shared their common interest in the development of Buddhism. Ever since, they have become good friends who are always side by side during the event. 

Not only did the UN Vesak Day forge close bonds among Buddhists, but it also connected followers of other religions and even non-religious people from all around the world.  

Representatives from 112 countries, including heads of states, attended the UN Vesak Day 2019, which illustrated the contribution of Buddhism in bringing countries closer, thus sustaining world peace.  

UN Vesak Day received International Recognition of the Day of Vesak Ceremony by the United Nations and was made an annual event in 2004.  2019 marked the second year Vietnam had hosted the event.  

Indeed, they help promote image of Vietnam, whose consistent policy of is respecting and guaranteeing the right to freedom of religion and belief, and freedom of non-religion and belief of citizens and this is clearly stated in its constitution and law, and guaranteed and respected in reality.

Today, just like every Sunday, the McClellans is filled with bright smiles. They enjoy the wonderful Sunday mass with their fellow LDS Church practitioners and a cozy ‘Family home evening’ among family members.

Such activities have gradually made Vietnam their second home./.