The fact that inspirational Christian speaker Nick Vujicic could speak about God at all before a soccer stadium full of people in Vietnam, a communist country highly restrictive of religion, on Thursday was considered a miracle by one of the Vietnamese organizers of the event.
Nguyen Dat An, who helped organize Vujicic's visit, said he was surprised the state broadcaster didn't cut off the speech altogether after Vujicic's comments about his faith.
"This was a miracle in Vietnam," An told the Associated Press. "God is the general director of this event."
Approximately 25,000 people, including the nation's vice president, flooded My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi to hear Vujicic speak, and millions watched the event at home. His speech was primarily motivational, addressing topics like respect for family, the need for forgiveness, and his stance against drinking and bullying.
However, the Australian-born speaker who was born without arms or legs did talk about his relationship with God.
"Do you know why I love God?" Vujicic asked a girl on stage who was also born without arms and legs, according to AP. "Because heaven is real. And one day, when we get to heaven, we are going to have arms and legs. And we are going to run, and we are going play, and we are going to race."
He then urged his translator, who appeared to be caught off guard by his statement, to translate what he had said.
Vietnam is ranked 21st on Open Doors USA's 2013 World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most severely persecuted. The country dropped two spots on the list from a year ago, though the organization still considers persecution in the Communist nation "severe."
Last year alone, more than a dozen Christians were imprisoned in Vietnam, according to the Open Doors website. Christians who convert from Buddhism are pressured by their families and communities, and pastors and new converts are often harassed by "gangsters" hired by authorities in tribal areas. The church is also closely monitored there, and the government deters people from attending by either waiting until the last minute to issue gathering permits, which are required for large gatherings, or by not issuing them at all.
Vujicic, 30, founded Life Without Limbs, a non-profit organization whose goal is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in 2005. Having been born without arms or legs, he dealt with depression and loneliness as a child, but now credits God with giving him the strength to move forward in life.
"We are a unique ministry. We can go on national TV where other Christians cannot," Vujicic told AP backstage Thursday. "Of course, in Vietnam there are limitations in how you can and can't talk about your faith, but with wisdom we come in. Some places we go we have to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves."
After Vietnam, Vujicic is scheduled to head to Cambodia; Macau, China; Hong Kong, China and Korea during the first part of his World Outreach.
On the Web: http://www.nickvujicic.com.