President Hồ Chí Minh and Belief and Religion


The main content of Hồ Chí Minh’s thought on belief and religion encompasses religious unity and national harmony, mutual respect, and the guarantee of freedom to follow or not to follow belief and religion.

Hồ Chí Minh said: “The forces of our entire nation are our greatest strength. No one can defeat them"1. Uniting the people – including ethnic groups and religious groups – was the core factor leading to victory in Vietnam’s revolution. That concept was part of Hồ Chí Minh’s strategy of national unity.

With the spirit of national harmony and of uniting non-religious and religious people, President Hồ Chí Minh mobilized leaders and followers of various religions to devote themselves to the cause of national salvation, state building, then gradually erasing prejudices left by history and by the conspiracy of some hostile forces wishing to cause conflicts among religious groups in Vietnam.
Hồ Chí Minh held that uniting non-religious and religious people was long-term and comprehensive unity carrying strategic significance. His sincerity, openness, generosity, and understanding of his compatriots’ concerns and inner thoughts left a deep impression in the hearts of religious followers.
The Declaration of Independence, which President Hồ Chí Minh drafted and then promulgated on 2 September 1945, quoted from and developed values of progressive ideologies on human rights from capitalist democratic revolutions. On 3 September 1945, just one day after the Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, President Hồ Chí Minh chaired the first meeting of the Government Council. During this meeting, President Hồ raised six urgent matters to be addressed, the sixth of which was, “Ensure freedom to follow or not to follow a religion and promote the unity of religious and non-religious people".
On 9 November 1946, the first National Assembly of Vietnam approved the first Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, affirming in this document that “The people have freedom of religion". On 14 June 1955, President Hồ Chí Minh signed Decree No. 234/SL regulating religious activities in Vietnam’s new political system, a decision that both religious followers and non-followers eagerly welcomed and supported.
In 1958, constituents of Hà Nội asked President Hồ Chí Minh, “Will religions be limited in the process of building Socialism?” President Hồ reaffirmed the position of communists toward religions: “No. In other socialist countries, people have full freedom of religion. It is the same in Vietnam". He had previously pointed out definite ethical and cultural values of religions:
“Jesus Christ teaches: Morality means compassion.
“Siddhartha Gautama teaches: Morality means mercy.
“Confucius teaches: Morality means humanity".
These salient points made by President Hồ Chí Minh regarding socialism and religion rejected the reasoning that were propagating among religious followers. Such false reasoning held that socialism was not reconcilable with Christian values and that socialism would limit religion and would not allow it to co-exist with socialism. President Hồ’s words alleviated the concerns and doubts within the Catholic community as Vietnam began to enter the process of building a new society.
Hồ Chí Minh reminded his compatriots and the soldiers across the country to “care for and look after the material and spiritual life of religious compatriots. It is expected that production will continue to develop so that, as the material life becomes better, the spiritual life of citizens will also become more peaceful and happy".
Hồ Chí Minh regarded religion as an essential factor and part of mankind’s cultural heritage. There is no doubt that only someone who had experienced the reality of revolution and thoroughly understood religions could have such an opinion.
Hồ Chí Minh paid great attention to respecting and accepting differences in perception and thought and looked for similarities in common goals and ideologies in order to draw people together to complete the nation’s key tasks.
President Hồ Chí Minh spoke about the close relationship between religious followers and the nation in a simple way that was easy to understand yet was also profound: The love of God is closely connected to the love of one’s country, and worshiping God is closely associated with serving one’s country. If a country has honor, then religions will shine; only when the country is independent can there be freedom of religion.
According to Hồ Chí Minh, a religious person’s beliefs and love of his country are not in conflict. A Vietnamese citizen can simultaneously be both a patriot and a genuine believer in his/her religion.
Hồ Chí Minh consistently looked at religion and the nation in the spirit of great national unity. Religions can only be affirmed when they exist within the heart of a nation, and a nation on its way to development needs to know how to call on the core values of religion.
President Hồ Chí Minh was consistently respectful of the world’s most famous people, without discriminating whether they belonged to a religion or not or whether they came from the East or the West. He drew upon their values and their philosophies, which he distilled and developed. This heritage included wisdom from people such as Siddhartha Gautama, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, and Sun Yat-sen. Hồ Chí Minh regarded these leaders as great people from history, and great teachers that he himself wanted to be their young student.