|Thousands of Cao Đài religious followers nationwide flocked to the Tây Ninh Cao Đài Holy See in the southern province of Tây Ninh on September 10, 2022, the 15th day of the eighth lunar, month for the Diêu Trì Cung festival. The festival is the biggest annual religious event of the Cao Đài religion, with the main activities including a Great Mother and Nine Goddesses procession, a five-fruit banquet offering and prayers. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tân|
HÀ NỘI — Religions have never before enjoyed such favourable conditions for their activities in Việt Nam as they do now, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Vũ Chiến Thắng stressed in a recent review.
Respecting the freedom of belief and religion is a consistent policy of the Vietnamese Party and State and has been institutionalised in the legal system, as it is one of the fundamental rights of the people and enshrined in the Constitution from the 1946 version to the 2013 one.
Inheriting late President Hồ Chí Minh’s viewpoint and thoughts on religion, in each period of the revolution, the Party and State have issued many guidelines, policies, and laws on belief, religion, ensuring the freedom to belief and religion, creating a legal foundation for religions to be practised stably and enhancing the relations between the State and religious organisations.
Since the Party Central Committee’s Resolution No 25-NQ/TW, dated March 12, 2003, on religious affairs in the new context, more than 30 related legal documents have been issued, reflecting the State’s attention to people’s legitimate belief and religious demand.
Thắng said thanks to religion-related guidelines, policies, and laws, the numbers of religious dignitaries, followers, and places of worship had been on the rise; and people’s right to the freedom of belief and religion was better ensured.
Religions had never had such favourable conditions for their activities like now, he said, adding that international relations had been more and more expanded; religious dignitaries, officers, and followers increasing; places of worship improved; and foreigners’ practice of religions made public in line with legal regulations.
Statistics show that the numbers of religious dignitaries, officers, and places of worship have been increasing. As of 2022, authorities have recognised 43 organisations of 16 religions, with more than 26.7 million followers, over 55,000 dignitaries, 135,000 officers, and 29,000 places of worship, compared to 15 organisations of six religions with 17 million followers, 34,000 dignitaries, 78,000 officers, and about 20,000 places of worship in 2003.
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. Over the 10 years of implementing the policies and laws, State agencies have granted the use of hundreds of hectares of land for building places of worship. In the first half of 2022 only, authorities at different levels licensed the construction and repair of 152 places of worship, permitted concentrated religious activities at 183 sites, and approved 140 publications with 684,250 copies.
The appointment and rotation of religious dignitaries and officers, the establishment of subordinate religious organisations, the amendment of religious organisations’ charters and statutes, as well as the registration of annual programmes have been conducted in line with regulations, according to the deputy minister.
Many large religious activities have taken place in the country such as the UN Day of Vesak hosted by the Việt Nam Buddhist Sangha three times with the participation of more than 1,000 delegates from 120 countries and territories and tens of thousands of people, an assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, and the celebration of the Protestantism’s centenary in Việt Nam.
|The Vesak celebration at Diệu Đế pagoda, a well-known ancient pagoda in Huế. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Hoa|
The Government’s Committee for Religious Affairs coordinated with the EU to organise a workshop on religions while the 6th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Interfaith Dialogue also took place in Việt Nam. The committee also held working sessions with many religious associations and officials, including international human rights organisations such as the US-based Institute for Global Engagement and the WAZ Media Group of Germany, to proactively provide information about the religious situation and the Party and State’s policies and laws on belief and religion, and thoroughly discuss issues that attract international attention.
Thắng said that in Việt Nam, religious activities with the participation of a large number of people received assistance from authorities to guarantee safety and security.
The abovementioned results in the implementation of policies and laws on belief and religion met the legitimate aspirations of religious dignitaries, officers, and followers, he affirmed.
The resolution of the 13th National Party Congress continued to underscore the importance of upholding good cultural and ethical values of religions to serve national development. In recent years, areas with large religious populations had become bright spots in economic, cultural, and social development. In particular, religious organisations had worked with administrations and donated hundreds of billions of đồng to the COVID-19 fight. Many places of worships became COVID-19 quarantine or treatment centres.
The deputy minister pointed out that hostile forces and some organisations, however, had yet to give up their plot of “peaceful evolution” but sought all possible ways to undermine the administration and disseminate wrongful allegations that there isn’t religious freedom in Việt Nam, flagrantly distorting the religious situation in the country and repeating false information to sow scepticism and drive a wedge into the religious solidarity.
From 2017 to 2022, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom released annual reports on international religious freedom, giving itself the right to assess and criticise the human rights and religious freedom situation in Việt Nam and some other countries. It used old information provided by unrecognised religious groups and sects, or extreme dignitaries discontented with the regime, Party, and State, to include in its reports while showing support for illegal religious activities or heresies in remote areas that run counter to good customs, laws, as well as interests of religious organisations and society, thus stirring public concern.
It also proposed the US Department of State bring Việt Nam back to the list of the countries of particular concern and put pressure on Việt Nam to allow all religious groups and sects that haven’t been recognised to operate freely, reduce the administration’s involvement in internal affairs of recognised religious groups.
Thắng stated such wrongful information, arguments, and distortions were extremely irrational, adding that they aimed to affect the thought and sentiment of religious dignitaries and followers to sow scepticisms about the Party and State’s policies and laws on religion.
Yet, however hard hostile forces try to distort or sabotage, they are still unable to keep dignitaries and followers from trusting the Party and State’s guidelines, policies, and laws on belief and religion, according to the official. Belief and religious activities have still been facilitated by authorities while dignitaries and followers have still practised religions freely at home or places of worship. Particularly, religious dignitaries and followers have still practised religions online as normal amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reality of the religious situation in Việt Nam testified to the great national solidarity and religious solidarity and also cemented religious dignitaries and followers’ trust in the national construction and development, the deputy minister affirmed.
He added that in the future, hostile forces would continue pushing up their opposition activities under the pretext of the call “for freedom to religions” and “democracy, human rights”; distort the Party’s advocacy and State’s policies and laws on religions; and increase trans-border or online missionary activities. When dealt with by authorities, they would make false claims that there is no freedom of religions in Việt Nam, thus hindering the country’s economic integration.
To prevent them from distorting the freedom of religions, the official said authorities should build and perfect the legal system on religions, ensure the freedom of every person under the 2013 Constitution, institutionalise the viewpoint of the Resolution of the 13rd National Party Congress on belief and religions. They should also perform well the function of the State managing the society through laws.
Authorities at all the levels should be attentive to and satisfy the legitimate religious need, and ensure the people’s right to freedom of religions in line with the international conventions to which Việt Nam is a signatory, while religious dignitaries and followers should heighten their vigilance against evil forces’ distortions and allegations, Deputy Minister Thắng stressed. — VNS