|A kit bag is handed over to a Buddist volunteer from the Vietnam Quốc Tự pagoda. An additional 115 volunteers who are dignitaries and followers of religions began to join frontliners in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in HCM City on August 20, 2021 in response to Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng’s appeal. –VNA/VNS Photo|
HÀ NỘI — Religious organisations and the majority of religious followers in Việt Nam have accompanied the nation and played an active role in socio-economic development as well as patriotic emulation movements.
They have also worked closely with the State in social welfare, and with authorities and people in national construction defence.
The good values of religions were reaffirmed during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as large numbers of religious dignitaries and followers responded to the call of all-level authorities, the Vietnam Fatherland Front and their religious organisations to work in COVID-19 quarantine centres and hospitals.
During the pandemic’s peak, more than 3,000 religious volunteers went to pandemic hotspots, of whom nearly 2,000 were deployed to COVID-19 treatment hospitals and centres in HCM City, and Bình Dương, Đồng Nai, Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu and Long An provinces in the southern region.
Between July 22, 2021 to April 7 this year, 747 Catholic volunteers, including 26 priests, worked at 10 hospitals.
Religious organisations have also actively engaged in political and social life.
Many prestigious religious dignitaries have been elected to elected bodies and political-social organisations at both central and local levels.
According to the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, five religious dignitaries are deputies of the 15th National Assembly, 88 religious dignitaries and 35 religious followers are incumbent deputies of provincial People’s Councils, 225 dignitaries, monks and nuns and 246 followers are deputies at district People’s Councils.
This has affirmed the great contributions of religious organisations to the nation and the building of a state of the people, for the people and by the people.
Speaking at a recent conference honouring religious organisations with contributions to national construction and defence, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính stressed that the religious people are an integral part of the Vietnamese nation and the great national unity bloc. Religions and beliefs form an inseparable part of the cultural and spiritual life in Việt Nam, he said, noting that although each religion and belief have its own cultural identities, they all look towards values of truth, goodness and beauty.
Việt Nam has actively participated in the annual dialogues on democracy, human rights and religions with the US and the European Union (EU), and has successfully defended the national report at the Third-Cycle Universal Periodical Review (UPR) and the national report on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council.
However, the US has recently included Việt Nam in the special watch list on religious freedom based on inaccurate information.
The US’s decision is based on unobjective assessments and inaccurate information about the situation of freedom of religion and belief in Việt Nam, Foreign Ministry deputy spokeswoman Phạm Thu Hằng said at the ministry’s regular press briefing on December 15.
Việt Nam stands ready to discuss with the US side issues of common concern in the spirit of openness, candidness and mutual respect, contributing to strengthening the comprehensive partnership between the two countries, Hằng stated.
She again reiterated Việt Nam’s consistent policy of ensuring human rights as well as the freedom of religion and belief, which are enshrined in the 2013 Constitution and the domestic legal system, and have been ensured and respected in reality. The country’s efforts and achievements in this regard have been widely acknowledged by the international community, she said.
Notably, Việt Nam’s election to the UN Human Rights Council for the second time for the 2023-2025 tenure, (the first time in the 2014-2016 term), has also reflected the international community's recognition and confidence in the Vietnamese Government’s efforts in ensuring human rights.
The election has demonstrated that Việt Nam has been fulfilling international commitments to human rights that the country has signed or approved. It is also the most persuasive evidence refuting false allegations of hostile forces that always attempt to deny and distort the human rights situation in Việt Nam.
Vietnamese Party, State facilitate the practice of religions
The Party and State have always created optimal conditions for religious organisations and individuals to practice their religions and beliefs.
Apart from facilitating the handover of land to the construction of worship places, the Party and State have also paid attention to other religious activities such as operation registration, and the ordainment and training of religious dignitaries and assistants.
The development of religious organisations requires intensive training for religious dignitaries and assistants. Therefore, many religions have been allowed to establish training institutions and open training courses.
The country counts 62 religious training establishments in 36 cities and provinces, including 11 grand seminaries and academies of the Catholic Church of Việt Nam; four institutions, 34 schools and eight colleges on Buddhism run by the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha; among others in various localities.
Since the Law on Belief and Religion came into force in 2018, the Catholic Church of Việt Nam has built two religious training establishments. Many of its institutions have been licensed to provide master's and doctoral training.
The Cao Đài academy has established with the Ante Creation (Cao Đài Tiên Thiên) Church as the legal representative. The establishment, whose opening contents were approved by the Ministry of Home Affairs, has admitted hundreds of people, helping improve knowledge for Cao Đài dignitaries.
Along with general religious knowledge, the training courses for Cao Đài dignitaries and assistants have also popularised the State’s law and regulations on religious activities.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister on August 8, 2006, approved the formation of the Khmer Theravada Buddhist Institute, whose first course was officially opened nearly one year later, said the head of the institute Most Venerable Đào Như, who is also Vice President of the VBS’s Executive Council.
Other legitimate needs of religious organisations have also received due attention from the Party and State, from ordainment and operation registration to the daily activities of dignitaries and assistants.
According to the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, the State has recognised and licensed 43 organisations belonging to 16 religions with about 26.5 million followers, making up 27 per cent of the national population, of which over 54,000 are dignitaries and more than 135,000 are assistants, along with nearly 30,000 worship places.
The ordainment, appointment, election, nomination and transfer of dignitaries, assistants, monks and nuns of religious organisations have been conducted smoothly thanks to the instruction of relevant consulting agencies.
During the three years of implementation of the Law on Law on Belief and Religion, from 2018 to 2021, a total of 5,572 people in 62 out of the country's 63 cities and provinces were ordained as dignitaries, and 12,421 others were appointed as assistants.
The number of licensed religious sites and groups also increased from 2,691 before 2018 to 1,112 after the law came into effect.
Concentrated religious activities of foreigners in Việt Nam have also been ensured, with 67 sites and groups gathering hundreds of foreign nationals legally residing in the country, mostly in HCM City (41) and Hà Nội (13). The religious followers come from different countries like the Republic of Korea (RoK), the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, the US, and France.
Chairman of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs Vũ Hoài Bắc quoted the law as saying that religious organisations are allowed to publish religious books and other publications. To exercise this right, many religious organisations and individuals have registered the publication.
Statistics show that the Religious Publishing House was allowed to issue 2,027 publications with over 7 million copies between 2017 and 2021, many of which have been translated into English, French and ethnic languages.
As many as 15 newspapers and magazines of religious organisations are operating in Việt Nam. Most religious organisations have launched their own websites. In the first half of this year, all-level authorities approved the issuance of 140 publications, with over 684,000 copies. VNS