Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The Vietnamese government's draft laws on "faith and religion" are in violation of "the right to freedom of religion", go against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, show that the purpose of government is "to profoundly interfere with religious affairs", continuing policies that encourage corruption and allows abuse by local authorities.
This is the harsh- and courageous - response of some Vietnamese bishops to the government request that the prelates comment on new rules proposed by the Committee for Religious Affairs. This - quite unusual - decision by the Government department to consult the bishops and the shortness of the time allowed for a response - 13 days - feeds a suspicion of the government’s attempt to “appear democratic” or an attempt to give officials who deal with religion means to "tighten their grip".
The Kontum diocese document, signed by Bishop Hoang Duc Oanh and bishop emeritus Tran Thanh Chung, points to the violation of the UN Declaration and the Constitution and states that the bills are also against the democratization of the country. "Developed countries do not need any agency in charge of religions". "Every religion - continues the text - has its canons and rules. It is absurd that 'non-believers' want to set the rules for people of faith". "This – continues the text - should be the job of the law makers who are religious or faith oriented and of those who truly are religious leaders, not of those "who are non-believers."
From his part, Msgr. Joseph Nguyen Duc Hieu, vicar general of the diocese of Bac Ninh, recalls that the Vietnamese Constitution affirms the right to freedom of religion and "recognizes, respects, protects and guarantees" the right of citizens to work in the political, economic, cultural and social sphere.
And echoing the bishops of Kontum, he repeats what the Bishops' Conference stated, in 2013 when it discussed the updating of the Constitution: " Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion, including the right to follow any religion or to follow no religion, the right to practice religious rituals, both individually and communally. None of religion or ideology can be considered mandatory for Vietnamese people. The government should not propagate negative views on religions nor interfere with the internal religious affairs such as formation, ordination, transfer of clergy, adjusting ecclesiastical borders...Religious organizations should have the freedom to engage in activities that serve the society in the areas of social welfare. "
"The current draft laws – he states - are against the right to freedom of religion and faith." "An an overall view of the draft bill indicates that it is going against The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and The Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam which was amended in 2013. We observe that the Draft Bills is a setback compared to the Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions in 2004". That was thought to be a limit to the freedom of religion. "Freedom of religion is a right, not a privilege. But the Draft Bills show many shortcomings and limitations on this right. All religious organizations and their dignitaries instead of enjoying the legitimate rights, have to be asking for them when they want to organize ceremonies, training, ordination etc…".
"The above are – he concludes - our sincere comments and suggestions. We wholeheartedly hope that the Law on faith and religion is indeed a legal document of progressiveness, for the happiness of people, where the biggest of all happiness is the freedom to practice their religious beliefs and live their spiritual life. Only then society can develop steadfastly and beautifully, when all are aiming for serving the people in harmony with the development of mankind including the people of Vietnam.