CPV: On November 14, the US State Department decided to remove Vietnam from the list of “countries of particular concern” on religious freedom (CPC). According to US mobile ambassador on religious freedom, John Hanfort, Vietnam has made important progress in the promotion of religious freedom.
It can be said that the decision has shown the honest and unbiased reflection of Vietnam’s religious life, welcomed by the Vietnamese and US public.
On this occasion, the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper talked with Mr Nguyen Thanh Xuan, deputy head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs around the issue.
Reporter: Could you tell us about the implementation of the State of Vietnam’s religious policies over the past several years?
Mr Nguyen Thanh Xuan: Over the past several years, together with the country’s development, the implementation and protection of religious freedoms in Vietnam has seen much remarkable progress.
The state has issued religion ordinance decree 22/2005/ND-CP instructing the implementation of the ordinance and instruction 01/2005/CT-TTg of the prime minister on Protestantism.
The above legal documents have built a legal framework for recognizing religious organizations, the establishment, separation and merging of grassroots religious groups, the establishment of religious schools, the appointment, voting and reshuffle of religious dignitaries, the holding of religious conferences, congresses and ceremonials, the teaching of religious dignitaries, the building of religious constructions, the humanitarian and charitable activities of religious organizations and their international relations.
The new regulations have been simplified from the old legal documents, which further facilitate the religious activities of followers, dignitaries and organizations.
Since these legal documents went into effect, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs has worked with relevant agencies to open courses to disseminate religious laws to authorities, dignitaries and followers so that they can understand them and implement the renewed religious policies of the state.
Therefore, religious activities in Vietnam have made many great strides. In the Central Highlands, the state has officially recognized 76 religious branches, granted registrations to 1,000 groups, accounting for 90% of Protestant branches in the region.
The state has also created favorable conditions for the General Confederation of the Vietnam Protestant Church (Southern region) (GCVNPC) to hold seven theology courses for 256 dignitaries, nominate 71 Protestant dignitaries, train 25 bible theology institutes and build 27 worship places.
In the northern mountainous provinces of Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Bac Can, Cao Bang, Lang Son, Thai Nguyen, Yen Bai, Tuyen Quang and the central province of Thanh Hoa, since June, 2006, 27 religious groups have been recognized in their operations.
In 2005, registration was granted to three Christian religious societies and Mennonite religious group in Ho Chi Minh City. In October, 2006, religious operation registration was given to 25 places of 17 Protestant organizations without legal entity status in Ho Chi Minh City.
In September, 2006, the country officially recognized another three religious organizations, including Buddha anchorite pure land, and the Vietnam Christian Evangelist Union.
In addition, the training of dignitaries of religious organizations has been increased. So far, the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha Congregation (VBSC) has opened three Buddhist courses, six Buddhology college courses and 31 Buddhologyschools attended by 5,000 postulants.
The Theology Bible Institute under the General Confederation of the Vietnam Protestant Church (Southern region) has opened two courses for 150 trainees. Its new office has also been built in Ho Chi Minh City.
Moreover, dignitaries and monks have been created favorable conditions to increase their tenet standards in foreign countries.
Worship places have also been improved, upgraded and built by authorities at different levels.
Larger numbers of religious publications have been published. Some 1,500 religious publications with 6,000,000 copies, including 500,000 copies of the Bible, have been published.
The Bible has been published in the Bana, Ede and Giarai languages for greater convenience in the religious activities of ethnic minority in the Central Highlands.
Religious organizations are allowed to issue press works to serve their religious activities. They include news-bulletins, magazines, journals and newspapers of Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, Buddhology and Hoa Hao Buddhism.
Religious activities are held normally. Especially, important festivals attracting a great number of followers are held solemnly.
The congresses of religious organizations are held following charter and regulations.
Religious organizations have actively participated in charitable and humanitarian activities, including the building of charitable houses, the raising of money to help natural disaster-affected people and the care of HIV/AIDS-infected patients.
The life of religious followers has been remarkably improved through state investment and socio-economic development programs.
Religious activities have been increased. The State of Vietnam has always created favorable conditions for religious organizations to welcome international religious delegations, such as the Vatican delegation led by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Vatican Minister of Evangelists, the world Baptist union delegation led by bronze Thich Nhat Hanh.
These delegations visited many places in the country, met authorities and religious organizations in Vietnam.
In addition, Vietnamese religious organizations have also sent their delegations to take part in religious activities in foreign countries.
Besides, the country has arranged delegations from the US and European Union (EU) to visit and study the religious situation in Vietnam, and regularly meet with representatives from foreign diplomatic agencies to share religious information and policies in Vietnam.
It can be affirmed that frank, open and equal dialogues on religion have helped promote mutual understanding, especially the understanding of Vietnam’s consistent policy to respect and ensure the religious freedom rights of its citizens.
Reporter: What do you think about the decision of the US State Department?
Mr Nguyen Thanh Xuan: Working on religious issues, we welcome the decision of the US State Department to remove Vietnam from the CPC list.
This is a decision which has shown unbiased assessment of religious life in Vietnam.
Former US Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr. Pete Peterson, after finishing his working term in Vietnam and returning to Vietnam, has affirmed that all religions had been recognized in Vietnam, and that all religious followers were free to go to pagodas, churches and to celebrate religious activities.
In a recent visit to Vietnam, professor Bobby Gene Roberts Jv from the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), religions in the Central Highlands in general and in Gia Lai province in particular, were developed democratically.
Everybody is free to choose to follow a religion. Churches are built properly, people’s lives are prosperous, united and happy.
US Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr. Michael Marine, affirmed that the US government praised religious freedom in Vietnam.
All these above assessment once again affirmed that the State of Vietnam had made ceaseless efforts to implement religious freedom rights for the people, together with creating positive changes in socio-economic development.
By removing Vietnam from the CPC list, the US State Department has shown an unbiased, honest and equal assessment of religious life in Vietnam.
We all know that since the normalization of the Vietnam-US relation in 1995, for many reasons, the US-Vietnam relations have undergone ten years of difficulties and challenges. In that process, the two countries have made greater efforts to create mutual understanding of issues of different viewpoints, including religious issues.
The decision is completely suitable for the efforts and positive tendency of Vietnam-US relations in recent years, especially when Vietnam has joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is actively hosting the 14th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting and when US President George W. Bush paid an official visit to Vietnam.
Together with the decision of the US State Department, we hope that the US Congress will promptly adopt permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) with Vietnam for the sake of the two countries, especially of the US businessman circle. Thanks to these, the relations between the two countries have enough favorable conditions for further development for the benefit of the two nations.
(Translated by BTA)
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