Statement by the Interfaith Council of Vietnam regarding the oppression of religious freedom by the Vietnamese Communist Government
– Representatives of religious and community organizations
– All Vietnamese Compatriots
Ladies and Gentlemen:
In commemoration of the 66th International Human Rights Day, a day that activists from all over the US to partake in advocacy efforts for human rights, freedom, democracy, and the sovereignty of Vietnam. On this occasion, the Interfaith Council of Vietnam is pleased to share our statement regarding the religious oppression in Vietnam by the Vietnamese Communist authorities in Hanoi.
As you all know, the Vietnamese government is a signatory to two International Covenants on civil, political, social and cultural rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Vietnam is also a member of the UN Human Rights Council since the end of 2013, having discussed new policies including religious freedom. However, it has been a deception both nationally and internationally as the Vietnamese government escalates its efforts to crack down on religious freedom through legal practices of religious ordinance and decrees to apply these ordinances, along with acts of brutal oppression against religious institutions over the past years.
Firstly, the various religious institutions in Vietnam are controlled, manipulated and infiltrated.
Even though these institutions are part of a civil society, the religions in Vietnam have never been accepted nor granted legal entity statuses by the Vietnamese government. As a consequence, we have encountered countless legal difficulties and restrictions in our activities. All religions are required to register and comply with stringent conditions, wait for arbitrary decisions made by authorities. If these requirements aren’t met, religious institutions and leaders will be publicly persecuted and arrested. Recent examples include the Mennonite Churches at My Phuoc and Binh Duong.
The Vietnamese government has also established its own state-controlled churches such as the Buddhist Church of Vietnam, Cao Dai Church, a number of Protestant denominations, the Catholic Solidarity Committee, in an attempt to control religions and use them as tools to control the society. These state-controlled religious institutions exist in parallel with original religious institutions and have caused divisiveness and mistrust within the religious communities, misleading the international community about the current situation in Vietnam.
Secondly, certain religious freedoms are allowed with certain conditions.
Activities which are permitted by authorities include: building places of worship, schools and social institutions, organizing religious ceremonies and masses and travelling abroad to integrate with international religious communities. However, these activities are only permitted to religious institutions, which are government friendly. These include those who are part of state-controlled religious institutions and those who have chosen to ignore the wrongdoings by the Vietnamese government, various democratic and human rights abuses and issues pertaining to Vietnamese sovereignty.
Lastly, all key religious rights have been banned.
a- All religious institutions are not allowed to independently decide how to organize themselves. The government seeks out ways to control recruitment, training, ordination and the appointment for religious leaders. Those who oppose will face disruptions and hindrance in their operations or are detained. The Most Venerable Thich Quang Do, Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, Le Quang Liem, Father Nguyen Van Ly, Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and Hua Phi are examples of those who have faced consequences following opposition.
b- All religious institutions are not permitted to freely conduct worshipping activities. Worshipping activities are only allowed to be conducted in places of worship which have been recognised by the State. Permission must be granted for festivals and ceremonies to be organised otherwise these activities will be banned and violently shut down. Evidence of this is from the suppression of the Protestant Church and Hoa Hao Buddhist group.
c- Religions are not allowed to propagate their teachings outside their religious establishments in society, through mass media, the Internet or with the people. We are not allowed to form our own publishing companies, radio stations or television channels nor have access to national public media, which is supported by taxpayer’s money.
d- Religious institutions are not permitted to contribute in educating youth in schools from elementary school through to university. At the moment, religious institutions are allowed to open kindergarten classes subject to tight control by the regime. This consequently means that the government has taken away the rights of the religions’ role and right to educate future generations of Vietnamese about the spirit of freedom, humanity and democracy.
e- Worshippers belonging to non-state religious communities are not entitled to executive management positions in the ruling apparatus, the ranks of public security, the army or in the education system which is monopolized by the State. The regime doesn’t want to allow faith to have a good influence on the ruling apparatus of the single-party dictatorship.
f- The Communist authorities have confiscated and have not returned assets and properties belonging to the religious institutions including places of worship, academies, schools, printing, land and bank accounts. Presently, religious communities and entities are not permitted to initiate buying or selling of land with an aim to expand or narrow their properties based on their operational needs.
Ladies and gentlemen, with the ongoing persecution and government restrictions on these religious activities, religious institutions are not able to contribute to the Vietnamese society, to enrich people’s spiritual lives and values, unable to use truth and justice to prevent the spread of deceit and injustice, unable to use love and freedom to overcome violence and subjugation. Consequently, our homeland will forever be behind in every aspect, particularly culture and values which people in Vietnam and around the world can see. Thus, Vietnam cannot contribute to building a civilized humanity for the world.
Through this declaration, we would like to send this to everyone today with the hope that all Vietnamese people are able to join together to fight for the prisoners of conscience imprisoned for their religious beliefs, for all religious institutions to have the religious freedoms they are entitled to and for our homeland to have human rights, democracy and territorial integrity.
Vietnam, December 8 2014
By the Interfaith Council of Vietnam:
– Reverend Phero Phan Van Loi (tel: 0984.236.371)
– Reverend Giuse Dinh Huu Thoai (tel: 0935.569.205)
– Reverend Anton Le Ngoc Thanh (tel: 0993.598.820)
The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam:
– Venerable Thich Khong Tanh (tel: 0165.6789.881)
– Venerable Thich Vien Hy (Tel: 0937.777.312)
Mennonites and Lutherans:
– Pastor Nguyen Hoang Hoa (tel: 0121.9460.04
– Pastor Đinh Uy (tel: 0163.5847.464)
– Pastor Dinh Thanh Truong (tel: 0120.2352.348)
– Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang (tel: 0978.207.007)
– Pastor Pham Ngoc Thach (tel: 0912.000.709)
– Pastor Nguyen Trung Ton (tel: 0906.342.908)
– Pastor Nguyen Manh Hung (tel: 0906.342.908)
– Pastor Le Quang Du (tel: 0121.2002.001)
– First Master Hua Phi (tel: 0163.3273.240)
– First Master Nguyen Kim Lan (tel: 0988.971.117)
– First Master Nguyen Bach Phung (tel: 0988.477.719)
– Mr. Le Quang Liem, Chairman of Hoa Hao (tel: 0199.2432.593)
– Mr. Phan Tan Hoa (tel: 0162.6301.082)
– Mr. Tong Van Chinh (tel: 0163.5745.430)
– Mr. Le Van Soc (tel: 096.4199.039)