OP-ED: Distorting truth about freedom of belief, religion in Việt Nam must end

November, 07/2022 - 08:15
Việt Nam is home to different forms of religions and beliefs that are co-existing.
Annual activities of many religions such as Christmas and the celebration of Buddha’s birthday, among others, have been held in Việt Nam in a solemn way with the participation of hundreds of thousands of followers. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Việt Nam is home to different forms of religions and beliefs that are co-existing, and this serves the need for a religious and spiritual life of a large number of people.

However, foreign forces have often taken advantage of the diversity in Việt Nam to seek ways to undermine the Party and State’s policies on the freedom of religion and belief for their political purposes.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and the US Department of State this year again raised their one-sided and subjective comments on the religious situation in Việt Nam, turning a blind eye to the vibrant religious life in Việt Nam as well as policies and guidelines of the Party and the State in ensuring people's right to freedom of belief and religion.

The USCIRF’s report carries wrongful information alleging that Việt Nam is continuing to enforce the Law on Belief and Religion in a way which “contravened international human rights standards”.

It recommended the US Department of State to include Việt Nam in the list of “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC). The department also held that Việt Nam is continuing to "harass" unregistered religious communities.

Meanwhile, some hostile organisations and individuals such as Radio Free Asia (RFA) and the Việt Tân, listed by the Ministry of Public Security as a terrorist organisation, have been hiding behind “protecting religious freedom” to spread false information alleging that Vietnamese authorities have forced hundreds of people out of their religions and discriminated between religious and non-religious people.

It should be affirmed that such prejudiced and ill-intentioned comments in the reports have laid bare that some international organisations and hostile forces have deliberately ignored Việt Nam’s marked achievements in perfecting its legal system and enforcing policies to ensure and promote freedom of religion and belief.

The Vietnamese Party and State have been persistently pursuing a policy of great national solidarity, solidarity between the people of different religions, and between religious followers and non-religious people; preserving and promoting positive values; and strictly prohibiting discrimination against citizens over beliefs and religions as well as acts that incite the division among the public and ethnic groups, cause disorder and infringe upon national security.

First, the right to freedom of religion and belief in Việt Nam has been ensured, as reflected in its codification. The 2013 Constitution affirms that everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion, to follow or not follow a religion. All religions are equal before law; the State respects and protects the right to freedom of belief and religion; no one is allowed to violate the right to freedom of belief and religion or take advantage of belief and religion to break the law.

The 2016 Law on Belief and Religion has created a positive impact on religious life in Việt Nam, creating a firm legal framework to ensure the exercise of the rights of freedom of belief and religion.

Resolutions adopted at the 13th National Party Congress continue to demonstrate Việt Nam’s persistent advocacy for the freedom of belief and religion, as well as non-belief and non-religion by highlighting the guarantee of the right.

Second, Việt Nam's guarantee of these rights has also been reflected through the number of religions and religious organisations recognised and licensed in Việt Nam.

The Vietnamese State has recognised and granted operation licences to 43 organisations of 16 religions with more than 27 million followers, or about 28 per cent of the population, with over 55,000 dignitaries, nearly 150,000 officers, and close to 30,000 places of worship.

Each year, there are more than 8,000 festivals of beliefs and religions with the participation of tens of thousands of followers in Việt Nam.

Those figures prove that the Vietnamese Party and State have always been facilitating the development of religions, in contrast to the slanderous allegations of “harassing religious communities” in the report of the USCIRF.

The practice of religions and beliefs in Việt Nam has also been very favourable. Religious followers are free to express their beliefs at home, at places of worship and with groups registered with the authorities.

Religious organisations have been allowed to operate in line with their charters and regulations, to upgrade and build places of worship, and expand the scales and forms of their activities.

Annual activities of many religions such as Christmas and the celebration of Buddha’s birthday, among others, have been held in a solemn way with the participation of hundreds of thousands of followers. Some major religious festivals have come to involve the greater public, reflecting the harmony between religious and non-religious communities and helping to strengthen the great national solidarity bloc.

Moreover, Việt Nam has also been paying attention to and creating favourable conditions for religious organisations to expand their international relations. Hundreds of delegations of Vietnamese religious organisations and individuals have participated in religious activities abroad each year, and many foreign religious dignitaries have come to Việt Nam for religious activities.

Various major international religious events have been held successfully in Việt Nam such as the celebration marking the feast of St. Dominic in the southern province of Đồng Nai, the celebration of the centenary of Protestantism being brought to the Southeast Asian nation, and the massive Buddha's birthday celebration, the Vesak 2019, which attracted about 3,000 delegates, including 1,650 international guests from 112 countries and territories.

These serve as vivid, convincing evidence refuting allegations that the Vietnamese State “harasses” and “suppresses” religious and belief activities.

Along with ensuring the right to freedom of belief and religion, Việt Nam has resolutely fought against acts that take advantage under the cover of religions for ill purposes.

Most of religious dignitaries and followers abide by the law and accompany the nation. However, there remain a number of dignitaries and followers whose wrong and negative perceptions supported by hostile forces have led to their wrongful view of the regime, or even in the formation of their hostility against authorities.

Quite a few illegal religion-coloured activities, like those of Hà Mòn and Tân Thiên Địa, have been organised, contrary to the traditional culture of the nation and imbued with signs of superstition and profiteering.

To ensure the respect for law, security and social safety, as well as a healthy religious and belief life, those who have taken advantage of the freedom of belief and religion to disturb public order and destabilise the society, whether religious or non-religious, must be punished strictly in line with the law.

It is clear that the achievements of the Party and State in ensuring the rights to freedom of belief and religion are undeniable. It is regrettable that the USCIRF and hostile forces have absorbed inadequate, inaccurate and poorly objective information about the religious and belief life in Việt Nam to deliberately distort the truth. — VNS

E-paper