Religious freedom in Vietnam, an undeniable reality

(VOVworld) – The US Department of State on August 10 released the 2015 International Religious Freedom Report, which judges other countries’ internal affairs. Although noting Vietnam’s positive action to safeguard freedom of religion and belief, the report indicates views that lack goodwill about Vietnam. 

Religious freedom in Vietnam, an undeniable reality - ảnh 1
President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Nguyen Thien Nhan congratulated the Vietnam Buddhist Shangha on Buddha's birthday on May 17, 2016

In its report, the US State Department acknowledges the Vietnamese government’s efforts in protecting freedom of religion and belief, including its collection of public opinions about a draft law on belief and religion. The report quotes religious leaders in Vietnam as saying that religious freedom is expanding with an increasing number of organizations recognized by the government. But, as usual, the State Department continues to slander Vietnam for violent acts, detention, prosecution, travel restrictions, refusal to license some religious groups, and obstruction of religious groups’ activities in education and healthcare. The Department says Vietnam allows limited freedom of religion and that authorities continue to obstruct activities of unlicensed religious groups.

Vivid evidence of religious freedom in Vietnam  

Vibrant religious practice and the rule of law in protecting human rights in Vietnam mean the strongest denial of the US Department of State’s biased assessment. In term of policy making, Vietnam has compiled a draft Law on Belief and Religion to replace the Ordinance on Belief and Religion, and added new content that match the reality of religious practice in Vietnam. The draft law stipulates “everybody” instead of “citizens” is entitled to the imprescriptible right to freedom of religion or belief. The coercion of following or abandoning a religion, or abuse of religious freedom to harm the State, citizens, and rights of religious organizations is prohibited. The draft law is viewed as more open than the previous legal documents. The Law on Belief and Religion will create better legal corridor for religious, belief activities in Vietnam. Public opinions on the draft law are being collected before the draft is submitted to the National Assembly’s approval.

Freedom of religion and belief has long been ensured, and the right to freely practice religion is protected. Christmas, Buddha’s birthday and other religious festivals take place annually, attracting the participation of hundreds of thousands of followers. Some major religious events have become a common festival of all people, reflecting the harmony of religion and life and a united Vietnamese nation. Thanks to its rich religious life, Vietnam has become a host venue of important events for religious followers all over world like the International Day of Vesak celebration, also known as Buddha Day, and the plenary assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

Correct assessment of religious situation to develop Vietnam-US relations

Vietnam is home to many ethnic groups and religions and is a rare country that has seen a harmony between religions. The State has recognized 39 religious organizations with about 24.3 million followers, accounting for 27% of Vietnam’s population. There are 53,000 religious dignitaries and 27.900 worshiping facilities. Religious organizations play an important role in realizing the Party’s guidelines and the State’s policies. Religious followers have taken part in building administrations at various levels. Many dignitaries have been elected to the National Assembly, People’s Councils, the Vietnam Fatherland Front, and related organizations. This reflects the consistent and correct policy of the Vietnamese Party and State, which has received strong response from the people.

Vietnam, a sovereign state, has the right to punish individuals and organizations which take advantage of religious freedom to sabotage the State, the national construction and defense, and national unity. This conforms to international and Vietnamese laws. It’s necessary for the US State Department to assess correctly Vietnam’s religious situation and government efforts to protect freedom of religion or belief, so as to consolidate and develop the Vietnam-US ties.