Christianity was introduced into Vietnam in around 1533 by the Portuguese. Alexander de Rhodes, SJ (1591-1660), the “apostle of Vietnam,” arrived in 1624.The first year he baptized the king’s sister and 1,200 adults; in the next 2 years, 5,500. In 1630, he was expelled and the first Christian was beheaded for the faith. Rhodes soon returned to Vietnam .In 1645, he was banished again, returned to France, and founded the Paris Seminary for Foreign Missions. This societies Missionaries converted many to the faith, 300,000 in Han Noi alone.
Sporadic persecutions of Christians occurred up to 1698. The first severe persecution erupted in 1698, when 100,000 Christians were martyred. Through periods of political instability the persecutions subsided and then intensified. Between 1820-1841 persecution escalated dramatically.
Father Andrew Dũng Lạc priest; b. c. 1795 id. 21 Dec. 1839. When Andrew Dũng Lạc was 12, his family moved to Hà Nội to find work. Although his parents were pagan, they allowed their son to receive instruction from a lay catechist so that he might benefit from the education generally denied the poor. He was baptized, studied Chinese and Latin, and then was ordained to the priesthood in 1823. He was a tireless preacher in word and example for several parishes until his arrest in 1835 . His parishioners gathered money to purchase his release. Father Dũng Lạc changed his name from Dung to Lac in order to disguise his identity and went to another area to continue his ministry. he was again arrested along with Peter Thi. Both were freed once ransom was paid, but they were soon arrested again. They were taken to Hà Nội, where priests received especially harsh treatment.
The tortures Andrew Dũng Lạc and others from the Vietnamese Persecutions underwent are considered by the Vatican to be among the worst in the history of Christian martyrdom. The emperor banished all foreign missionaries, and required Vietnamese Christians to apostatize by trampling a crucifix underfoot. Christians were marked on their faces with the words tà đạo,meaning”false religion”. Husbands were separated from their wives, and children from their parents. During the 19th century, between 100,000 and 300,000 Christians suffered for their faith. Between 1857 and 1862, it is estimated that more than 5,000 faithful were martyred in addition to 215 native priests and nuns.40,000 Catholics were dispossessed and exiled from their home regions.
It was during this final imprisonment that Fr. Andrew Dũng Lạc and companions were martyred.
Whenever religious such as Father Andrew Dũng Lạc are persecuted there are usually some common themes that consistently recur. For one the persecutions almost always use evil the name of good. Torture, humiliation, and human rites abuses replace Gods wisdom and charity. In instances such as the martyrdom of the Vietnamese Christians, the persecuted are a disruption to the old ways, and a threat to old regimes; many times these persecutors are not confronting the ideas of their opponents, but instead exploit an often irrational fear amongst the population and fuel that fear to maintain power. While persecution is based on lies, Fr. Dũng Lạc and the Vietnamese martyrs maintained truth and their faith in Jesus Christ. Their writings during these tremendous horrors speak only of encouragement to their fellow Christians to stay strong in their faith. While the persecutors used torture and humiliation as their weapons, the martyrs used prayers and the inspiration of the cross of Christ. They armed themselves with the strength of faith. Had they let the persecutors take their faith, they knew they would have no life.