Introduction / History
Lying along the China Sea in southeast Asia, Vietnam is home to about 120 distinct people groups. However, the majority of the population is ethnic Vietnamese. Historical upheavals forced the major people groups to intermingle with others, separate, and eventually live in scattered localities. Their cultures, languages, and lifestyles were all affected, resulting in a somewhat “blurred” national character.
At the end of the 1700’s when Vietnam was in chaos, several ethnic groups united with the native groups of Thai speaking peoples. These people became known as the Tho. Today, they are regarded as an official minority in Vietnam. The Tho prefer to be known as “Tay,” since the term “Tho” is now considered derogatory.
Since the 1945 revolution and the reunification of North and South Vietnam, many changes have taken place. Various agencies are currently working to improve their standard of living.
What are their lives like?
The Tho are mostly peasants who live in the low, sloping mountains between the high mountains and the plains of southeast Asia. They grow wet rice and use “slash and burn” techniques to grow dry rice, maize, buckwheat, watercress, sugar cane, and other vegetables. They grow hemp and use it for making bags and nets for fishing. They sell or exchange products for household items and use forest products for food.
Traditionally, the Tho were master hunters. They used traps, cages, and automatically triggered arrows. Today, they hunt very little because of the changed ecological conditions.
The Tho mainly live in houses built on the ground. These houses are private property, as are their accompanying gardens. However, there are still some Tho who live in houses built on stilts. The architecture of these homes is simple, without the fancy gables and decorative work commonly seen on other houses. Today, nearly all the Tho are part of a “collectivized agricultural program” in the form of community (collective) farms. Farm land is seen as community property that people are free to use, but not own.
Villages used to be the center of economic activity, with local markets rotating among a series of villages and trading mainly with the Vietnamese and Chinese communities. Today, however, the Tho have been primarily assimilated into the Vietnamese society.
Tho families are usually small and the line of descent is traced through the father. Children begin school at six years of age and older. There, they begin studying the Vietnamese language. Young people choose their own marriage partners, and after a betrothal ceremony, many marriage rituals are performed. The groom is expected to perform some work for the bride’s family as payment.
What are their beliefs?
The Tho worship a multitude of gods. Ancestor worship (praying to deceased ancestors for protection and guidance) is commonly practiced. The Tho are also animistic (believe that non-living objects have spirits).
Traditionally, most Tho villages had temples where they worshipped a multitude of gods associated with earth, water, fire, and important ancestors. Many other spirits and ghosts were also worshipped. The major ceremony of the year was held at the beginning of the farming season, when the various deities were asked permission to prepare the farm and plant the seeds. Folk literature and art were also of importance in religious life.
What are their needs?
Over 44 years of war played havoc with the Vietnamese economy, making recovery particularly slow. Moreover, Vietnam remains one of the few Communist nations of the world.
Prayer is the first step toward seeing these people reached with the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Vietnam and share Christ with the Tho.
* Ask God to strengthen, encourage, and protect the small number of Tho Christians.
* Pray that God will reveal Himself to the Tho through dreams and visions.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of the Tho toward Christians so that they will be receptive to the Gospel.
* Pray that God will open the hearts of Vietnam’s governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Tho.
* Pray for completion of Bible translation in this people group’s primary language.
* Pray for the availability of the Jesus Film in the primary language of this people.
* Pray for Gospel messages to become available in audio format for this people group.
Text Source: Joshua Project