Vietnam works to protect religious freedom

    Heiner Beilefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, presented to the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council the main findings of his visit to Vietnam from July 21 to 31, 2014.

    Last update 20:00 | 24/03/2015

    In addition to some biased and prejudiced comments, the rapporteur identifies some positive developments in protecting free religious and belief practices in Vietnam.

    In his report to the UN Human Rights Council Heiner Beilefeldt praised Vietnamese agencies for the cooperation. He underscored Vietnam’s progress in promoting and protecting religious freedom in recent years.

    Freedom of religion and belief is visible

    Beilefeldt’s report mentions details of religious freedom in Vietnam. “Many representatives of different religious communities acknowledged that there was generally more space for the exercise of religious freedom in Viet Nam at present. Religious life is a visible reality, as evidenced by places of worship that belong to various religions and denominations and by the participation of people from diverse religious and belief practices. In recent years, there have apparently been attempts to preserve or revive traditional rituals among the ethnic or religious minorities.”

    The Vietnamese Constitution, adopted on November 28, 2013, contains one charter on “human rights, the fundamental rights and obligations of citizens”. Article 24 of the 2013 Constitution specifies freedom of religion and belief for all people, which did not exist in the 1992 Constitution. “This is a positive step towards promoting and upholding human rights”, the report says.

    The adoption of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion symbolized “a move towards the legal accommodation of religious and belief communities.”

    The report notes that the number of institutions for training clergy or educating the younger generation have increased and religious communities can appoint and ordain their clergy in accordance with their own internal rules and laws. “They reportedly do not need approval for their decisions from the authorities in general”, the report says.

    “Representatives of the Viet Nam Buddhist Sangha explained they would increasingly offer services in prisons, including lectures for the social and moral edification of prisoners. Catholic priests, too, seem to have occasionally offered religious services to prison inmates.”

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    Vietnam has diverse religions such as Caodaism, Hoa Hao Buddhism, Baha’I, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam. Religious life in Vietnam is diverse and active with more than 8,000 religious folk festivals and rituals annually. 

    Considering religious and belief practices a legitimate human aspiration, the Vietnamese government has consistently respected and provided favorable conditions for people to enjoy their religious rights. The Vietnamese government respects religious unity and harmony, ensures equality, and practices no religious discrimination. Vietnam affirms that it has no prisoners of conscience. Individuals are tried, convicted, and sentenced for violating the law, not because of their political or religious opinions.

    While respecting and protecting people’s fundamental rights, including freedom of religion and belief in line with international law, the Vietnamese government considers the visit by the UN Special Rapporteur to exemplify Vietnam’s cooperation with UNHRC’s Special Procedures. The Vietnam visit was an opportunity for the Rapporteur to learn about religious life and freedom in Vietnam. It was also an opportunity for Vietnamese ministries, sectors, localities, and political, social, and religious organizations to share the lessons and challenges that Vietnam is facing. Having open talks and providing favorable conditions to the UN Special Rapporteur illustrates Vietnam’s goodwill and commitment to boosting human rights, including religious freedom.