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Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 15:22 (GMT+7)
Freedom of religion and belief abused

The exploitation of the right to freedom of belief and religion to undermine the Party and State with a view to inciting sociopolitical instability represents a  frequently used plot in the hostile forces’ strategy of peaceful evolution. The struggle against this malicious conspiracy, therefore, is an urgent task today.

In fact, this scheme of the hostile forces is nothing new; it was used to deliberately sabotage previous socialist countries. The question is, why do they utilize thoroughly this plot against Vietnam? Maybe, it is not difficult to give an answer to this question.

Vietnam is a multiracial and multi-religious society which has a fairly high rate of religious people in the Vietnamese community. If the hostile forces were able to exploit the majority of religious people, their acts of  sabotage would have great effects, not to mention other related consequences. This is where the maliciousness and danger of the plot lie. In other aspects, our State is a socialist law-governed one whose rights of citizens and right to freedom of belief and religion are stipulated and guaranteed by the Constitution and legislation. Besides bold interference, they have thoroughly taken advantage of the term “freedom”, but deliberately ignored the latter part “… within the law” to coordinate acts of sabotage with the aim of fueling sociopolitical instability, advancing towards abolishing the leading role of the Communist Party of Vietnam and socialist regime in our country. In order to carry out this scheme, the hostile forces have used every expedient to release the grip of State on religion; given the opposing forces both material and spiritual support; and empowered religion in Vietnam to become a political force “counterbalanced” with the Party. They have chosen “religious freedom” as a “fuse” to undermine Vietnam; and absolutized the universality and popularity of rights in religious field by means of the theoretical point: “sovereignty superseded by human rights.” At the same time, they argued that “Vietnam regards religion as the Party and State’s means of propaganda to bolster the State’s policies on the development of economy, culture, security, defence, and so on.” They have capitalized on matters arising from religious people’s life and religious practices and weaknesses of authorities at various levels in the control and implementation of religious policy, especially matters related to land clearance and compensation, places of worship, etc., to incite the masses and followers of religious groups to destroy property, resist law enforcement forces, destabilize security and social order, and obstruct traffic. They have even filmed and taken photographs of the aforementioned actions to exaggerate and distort realities, misrepresent the Party’s guidelines and policies, and falsely accuse our State of violating democracy and human rights, suppressing religion, and so on.

Exiled reactionaries have colluded with the opposing and malcontent forces inside the country to collect racial and religious information in Vietnam for the purpose of distorting and misrepresenting truth. Then they disseminate those pieces of information on the Internet with a view to damaging Vietnam’s prestige in the international arena. They have also taken advantage of radical congressmen of several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, etc., and international organizations such as the Human Right Watch (HRW) and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to request these organizations to adopt reports, resolutions, and communiqué containing distorted content, making the international community misunderstand religious situation in Vietnam. Typical examples include: the annual reports to Congress on international religious freedom submitted by the U.S. Department of State; the United Kingdom annual reports on human rights; Australian annual reports on human rights, the European Parliament resolutions, and so on. Every year, the United States House of Representatives passes many bills and resolutions regarding human rights situation (as well as religious issues) in Vietnam such as H.R.1587 (Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2004), H.R.3096 (Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2007), H.R.1410 (Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2012, H.R.1897 (Vietnam Human Rights Act of 2013, H.Res.484, and so on. Particularly, they have sought to call upon, through radical politicians (Loretta Sanchez, Zoe Lofgren, Christopher H. Smith…), the United States Congress to return Vietnam to the list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) despite different religious situation in Vietnam.

In the process leading the revolution, the Party and State have promulgated many resolutions, directives and legal documents to ensure increasingly improved human rights in various fields, including the right to freedom of belief and religion. Having implemented those resolutions and directives, Vietnam has made great progress in ensuring the right to freedom of belief and religion of its people. Religious groups have never enjoyed such favourable conditions for their development. According to preliminary statistics, 40 religious organizations from 14 different religions with over 25 million followers, 53,000 dignitaries, 133,000 ministers, and 28,000 places of worship have been recognized and authorized to practice their religions by the State as of early 2017. Religions have had their own training system nationwide. Most of religious organizations have published their own newspapers, magazines, and bulletins. The State has allowed religious groups to publish prayer books in ethnic languages such as bibles in Bahnar, Ede, and Jarai languages and Buddhist sutras in Khmer language, and so on. In addition, the Government has paid much attention to approving the registration of places to practice Protestantism. Followers of Protestantism can practice their religion individually at home, or collectively in registered places.

International cooperation activities in religious realm are attached great importance to. The Government has created good conditions for religions to broaden international relations. Many international religious delegations have paid working visits to Vietnam, and many Vietnamese delegations of religious dignitaries have visited and studied abroad. Vietnam has successfully held many major religious events appreciated by international community, including the United Nations Day of Vesak in 2008 and 2014; the 11th Sakyadhita International Conference on Buddhist Women (in 2009); the 100th Anniversary of the Arrival of Protestantism in Vietnam (in 2011); the ASEAN Buddhist Summit in 2016, and so on.

Given the Party and State’s sound policies, over the past few years, most of believers and religious dignitaries and ministers have believed in the Party’s leadership and State’s management; bringing into play traditions of patriotism, unity, attachment, going along with the ups and downs of the nation; “living in unity and good religion”; “being beneficial to the country and people”; and actively participating in socioeconomic development, hunger eradication and poverty alleviation, maintenance of security and order, etc., contributing to great achievements in the renewal process of our country.

The fact of the matter is that the right to freedom of belief and religion of people in Vietnam is always respected and guaranteed. This is an objective truth which cannot be denied. It has been recognized by international community, including many politicians. “Freedom of religion and belief in Vietnam has been promoted and made much progress,” said USCIRF Vice Chairman Michael Cromartie after having witnessed religious practice in some localities. “The Government of Vietnam has permitted freedom of religion to exist. This is a development, not a revolutionary,” Director of the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), an advisory body to U.S. administration on international religious freedom policy also emphasized after having visited many places in Vietnam. In his working visit to Vietnam recently, Vatican’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ettore Balestrero said that the State of Vietnam continued to endeavour to implement consistently and ceaselessly improve its policy on promotion of respect for and guarantee freedom of belief and religion for its people. Particularly, Vietnam was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for the 2014-2016 period with the highest number of favourable votes, and successfully brought into play its role as a responsible member. This was acknowledged and appreciated by the international community. Efforts and achievements in the maintenance of freedom of belief and religion in our country over the past years represent the most objective evidence and the most convincing foundation to reject distorted and hostile allegations about the situation of freedom of belief and religion in Vietnam.

It is necessary to note that, like any other social activities, religious practice in Vietnam, or in any other countries must be within a legal framework laid down by that state. Citizens (whether they practice their own religions, or no religion at all) that violate the law will be subject to legal proceedings. Law enforcement agencies have implemented a number of measures to struggle against and prevent the exploitation of the right to freedom of belief and religion to undermine national security and social order and safety in recent years. Many people who had taken advantage of freedom of belief and religion to coordinate activities against the State were arrested and prosecuted according to law. Agencies of the Government and National Assembly have been scrutinizing the system of legal documents regarding religion to identify content that needs amending and supplementing. Most notably is the promulgation of the 2016 Law on Belief and Religion which stipulates the right to freedom of belief and religion; practice of belief and religion; responsibility of organizations and individuals in the practice of belief and religion, etc., laying a solid foundation for ensuring a better right to freedom of belief and religion, as well as people’s right to follow no belief or religion, and struggling and denying the exploitation of freedom of belief and religion to sabotage the Party and State. The mass media usually propagandizes to raise the public and the religious followers’ awareness of the Party’s policies and the State’s law on religion and people’s vigilance over schemes and ruse of the hostile forces.

In the forthcoming years, international situation will continue to envision complex developments against the backdrop of peace and cooperation on the settlement of global issues; freedom of belief and religion will remain the cover that the hostile forces and anti-regime camps thoroughly exploit to destabilize sociopolitical situation and interfere in our internal affairs. In order to improve the effectiveness of preventing and denying the exploitation of the right to freedom of belief and religion to undermine the Party and State, this task must be always placed under the leadership of the Party and control and management of the State. It is necessary to continue to improve policies and legal documents regarding belief and religion; regularly increase people, religious followers, and dignitaries’ awareness of the Party and State’s policies on belief and religion; expose the hostile forces’ plots and ruse to capitalize on freedom of belief and religion, thus enhancing people, religious followers, and dignitaries ‘responsibility for participating in the prevention and struggle against these activities; strengthen propaganda and struggle on the front of foreign relations; make full use of various channels, especially the media, to facilitate correct understanding of the Party’s policies, State’s law, and recorded achievements in the maintenance of freedom of belief and religion in our country among the international community, contributing to effectively struggling against distorted allegations about human rights and religion in Vietnam.

The struggle against the hostile forces’ exploitation of freedom of belief and religion to sabotage the Party, State, and renewal cause constitutes a regular and enduring task, which requires resoluteness, patience, and participation of the whole political system and people, including religious people.

Nguyen Xuan Quynh

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