Vietnam’s progress in ensuring people’s freedom of belief and religion

28/09/2016


The draft Law on Religion and Belief is being discussed at the ongoing National Assembly Standing Committee’s third session which runs from September 22nd.
The bill will be submitted to the 14th NA session for approval to create an open legal corridor for religious activities in Vietnam. 
Vietnam is a multi - religion and multi-belief country. 95% of Vietnam’s population practices a religion. Vietnam now has 14 religions with 40 religious organizations and nearly 20 million followers. There are nearly 83,000 religious dignitaries, monks, and nuns, and 250,000 people overseeing religious activities at about 28,000 places of worship.
Overview of religions
Religious activities, especially those recently introduced in Vietnam, have been held on a stable basis in accordance with an organization’s regulations and with the law.
There has been a harmony between religions. It is common for dignitaries of one religion to attend events and meetings of another religion. Voluntary donations and assistance by followers of one religion to followers of another religion or to non-religious people are popular, reflecting solidarity between religions and between religions and secular life.
State management agencies at the central and local level often conduct visits, send congratulatory messages to religious dignitaries during festivals, and hold dialogues with local religious organizations.
Since Vietnam began its renewal process, many new belief and religious sects have been licensed.
Most places of worships have been refurbished. There are 4 Buddhist academies, 8 Buddhist colleges, 32 Buddhist high schools, 7 Catholicism seminaries, 2 Protestant theological colleges, and one Protestant seminary.
The Religious Publishing House has published 4,000 titles totaling tens of millions copies.
Every religious organization and individual is entitled to favorable conditions for participating in international exchanges of delegations, international forums and conferences, religious training courses, and other international activities. Numerous international religious events have been successfully organized and highly appreciated.
Reformed views on religions and beliefs
A resolution of the 9th Party Central Committee has affirmed that practicing religion is a spiritual demand of some of the population and religious followers are part of national solidarity.
The Vietnamese Party and Government have consistently followed a policy of respecting and ensuring the right to practice religion in Vietnam.
Vietnam strictly forbids any acts which violate people’s right to perform religious activities.
Since 1986 there have been more than 100 revised legal documents reflecting Vietnam’s renewal of policies on religions and beliefs compatible with international agreements and treaties to which Vietnam is a signatory.
In Vietnam, people’s right to freedom of religion is set in Article 23 of the 2013 Constitution, which says “Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion, and has the right to follow any religion or to follow no religion. All religions are equal before the law. The State shall respect and protect the freedom of belief and religion. No one may violate the freedom of belief and religion, nor may anyone take advantage of a belief or religion in order to violate the law.”
Progress in freedom of religion and belief
Vietnam is building a draft Law on Religions and Beliefs which will be submitted to the National Assembly in October. The bill expands freedom of religion and belief from “citizens” to “everyone”. This change acknowledges that the right to freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right.
Registering to practice a religion is considered a way for individuals’ to express their belief and is not a condition for setting up a religious organization.
Other changes include moving the responsibility for the recognition, establishment, splitting, and merging of a religious organization from the Prime Minister to the state management agency on religions and belief.
The draft law will create more favorable conditions for foreigners legally residing in Vietnam to practice a religion or be nominated, or elected to a religious post in Vietnam./.

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