Results of Implementing the Vietnamese State’s Laws and Policies on Belief and Religion


Many significant results have been achieved during the nearly 20 years of implementing Reform and Renewal policies on religious affairs. 

Previously, the State had recognized three religious organizations: The Vietnamese Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Northern Church), the Vietnamese Catholic Church, and the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha. The State has since considered and recognized other religious organizations, including:

- Representative Committee of Muslims of Hồ Chí Minh City in 1992.
- Nine Cao đài Churches during the period from 1995 to 2000.
- Hòa Hảo Buddhist Church in 1998.
- Vietnamese General Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Southern Church) in 2001.
- Representative Committee of Muslims of An Giang Province in 2004.
Thus, prior to 2006, the State had recognized a total of 16 religious organizations emanating from six religions to operate in accordance with the detailed framework of the law. From September 2006 to present, 13 other religious organizations – such as Tứ Ân Hiếu Nghĩa, Tịnh độ Cư sĩ Phật hội, Missionary Christian Church, United World Mission Church – were granted certificates for operational registration of religious activities and will soon be recognized as organizations according to provisions of the law.
There has been growth in the training of religious clergy: The Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha has established three institutes, six colleges, and 31 intermediate training schools, which have trained 5,090 Buddhist monks and nuns; the Vietnamese Catholic Church has six seminaries now training 1,236 Catholic priests; the Institute of Bible and Theology of the Vietnamese General Protestant Church (Southern Region) has organized two training courses for 150 trainees. On 30 August 2006, the Institute of Bible and Theology started construction for a new base in Hồ Chí Minh City,... During five years (1999-2004), the Religious Publishing House published 719 publications with 4.2 million copies (more than 500,000 of which were Bibles) at the request of religious individuals and organizations. Bibles have also been printed in the Ba Na, Ê-đê, and Gia Rai ethnic minority languages to facilitate religious practice among followers in these ethnic groups.
The State of Vietnam has carried out many socio-economic development programs in order to improve the material and spiritual life of the people, especially those in remote and mountainous areas and for ethnic minority people, including those who follow religions. The State also guarantees and creates favorable conditions for religious activities of religious clerics and followers to normalize their activities in many areas, including:
Such activities as expressing one’s belief and engaging in religious ceremonies, rites, and religious festivals are allowed to be organized on a regular basis. Especially important religious festivals and ceremonies such as Buddha’s Birthday for Buddhists, Christmas and Easter for Catholics and Protestants, ceremonies for the foundation anniversaries of the Cao đài religion and Hòa Hảo Buddhism, and Ramadan for Muslims are organized with religious rites and the participation of many followers.
In particular, Buddha’s Birthday in the Buddhist calendar year of 2550 (2006) was organized on a large scale also to honor the 25th anniversary of the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha (1981-2006) and the UNESCO decision to recognize Buddha’s Birthday as a world religious holiday.
Important religious festivals and ceremonies are growing in scope as many more believers and followers participate with a spirit of joy and peace of mind and a belief in the State’s policies and law and take part in religious festivals in a safe and orderly way.
Religious organizations have been active in strengthening their organizations, in nominating, transferring, and appointing clergy and admitting members of religious communities to improve their work in training in accordance with their organizations’ charters and regulations as well as provisions of the law. For example, the Vietnamese Buddhist Church appointed new positions in the professional committees of its National Steering Council and Provincial/City Steering Councils, and also established several new Provincial Steering Councils.
The Vietnamese Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Northern Church) organized its Congress for the 2004-2008 term, and the Vietnamese General Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Southern Church) organized its Congress for the 2005-2009 term. Other organizations such as the Cao đài Verity Church (Hội Thánh Cao đài Chơn lý), the Cao đài Three-Door Temple Gate Church (Hội Thánh Cao đài Cầu Kho - Tam Quan), and the Cao đài Missionary Church (Hội Thánh Truyền Giáo Cao đài) have also organized Congresses for their new terms. The Tây Ninh Cao đài Church organized a mid-term Congress to appoint new dignitaries and representatives of the Management Council at the local level. The Hòa Hảo Buddhist Congregation also strengthened its local Management Councils during its Second Congress. Similarly, the An Giang Representative Committee of Muslims was established.
According to statistics, in 2005, 800 ordinations, 605 appointments, and 337 transfers were made across all religious organizations.
The training of religious clergy and members of religious communities has expanded and intensified. This year, the Intermediate Buddhism Training Center and Buddhist Colleges recruited large numbers of students. Buddhist Institutes have expanded, and the quality of training for monks and nuns has improved. The Vietnamese Buddhist Church is also completing construction of a new Buddhist Institute in Hà Nội’s Sóc Sơn District and is preparing to build its Theravada Khmer Buddhist Institute in Cần Thơ City as well as a new center for the Hồ Chí Minh Buddhist Institute. The Catholic Association’s seminaries have increased the number of classes and seminarians each year. The Jesus Christ Seminary in Hồ Chí Minh City has opened a second branch in Xuân Lộc District, Đồng Nai Province. Now in its second year, the Institute of Bible and Theology of the Vietnamese General Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Southern Church) doubled the number of its entry-level students compared with its first year. The Steering Committee of the Vietnamese General Confederation of Evangelical Churches has also organized training courses on religious doctrine for pastors, newly appointed pastors, and preaching pastors who are ethnic minority people in provinces of the Central Highlands. The Steering Committee has also ordained senior religious clerics in provinces of that area.
The Cao đài and Hòa Hảo Buddhists have organized classes in religious doctrine for many participants. The Representative Committee of Muslims in Hồ Chí Minh City and An Giang Province have supported their followers to visit the Mecca and to take part in Koran-reading ceremonies organized overseas.
In 2005, the number of graduates from religious schools and training courses of all denominations was 6,963, while the number of newly recruited participants was 5,584, and the number of on-going religious trainees was 4,563.
Bibles, religious books, and religious documents have been regularly published, thereby meeting the demand for religious activities. Magazines and newspapers published by religious organizations currently include: Nghiên cứu Phật học (Buddhist Studies Magazine) and Giác Ngộ (Enlightenment Newspaper) by the Vietnamese Buddhist Sangha; Hiệp Thông, Người Công giáo Việt Nam (The Vietnamese Catholic Newspaper), and Công giáo và Dân tộc (Catholicism and the Nation) by the Catholic Church; Hương Sen (Fragrant lotus Magazine) by the Hòa Hảo Buddhist Congregation; and Mục vụ (Serving Pastors Bulletin) and Thông Công (Spiritual Communion Bulletin) by the Vietnamese General Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Southern Church).
In 2005 alone, the Religious Publishing House licensed 450 Bible titles (with more than one million copies) and 60 other titles. During the first six months of 2006, the Religious Publishing House printed 130 religious titles.
Humanitarian activities of religious organizations are encouraged and have been effective. Religious organizations have participated actively in social affairs, including health care and education, and in humanitarian activities and movements to build up a cultured lifestyle in residential areas. They have also been very active in raising funds to support victims of natural disasters and to build houses for people in need. In addition, religious organizations, senior religious clergy, and members of religious orders have played an important part in providing free health check-ups and treatment. They have also taken care of people with disabilities, orphaned children, the elderly, leprosy patients, and AIDS patients in the final stages of the disease... These efforts have helped to reduce difficulties and relieve the pain of tens of thousands of people.
Local governments have facilitated the upgrading, restoration, and new construction of places of religious worship as stipulated by the law. As a result, many pagodas, churches, monasteries, and mosques were upgraded or built during the past year. In particular, branches of the Confederation of Evangelical Churches (Southern Church) in the Central Highlands have received land for churches, while others are under consideration for land allotment. In 2005, 242 places of worship were built, while 320 others were repaired or upgraded.
Along with recognized religious organizations, some other religious associations that have recently formed or have recently arrived in Vietnam have been permitted to conduct regular religious activities in places of worship or in assembly points. The Government Committee for Religious Affairs is collaborating with local authorities on guidelines for these new Protestant denominations and other religions that are in the process of registering their activities so that they can be recognized in accordance with provisions of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion.
Two years after the issuance of the Ordinance on Belief and Religion, especially after the Prime Minister’s Instruction (“Some Tasks Related to Protestantism”), religious activities of Protestant followers in the Central Highlands have received due attention and their rights have been guaranteed according to provisions of the law. As a result, 718 religious groups have registered, and 67 religious chapters have been recognized and are engaged in regular activities. Also, 71 pastors and newly-appointed pastors have been recognized. Some religious chapters have built places of worship.
In the Northern Highlands of Vietnam, local governments have created favorable conditions for Protestants to practice their religion at home and have developed guidelines for religious assembly groups to register their activities with local authorities. Until now, the first step has been implemented with registration of religious activities for Protestant followers belonging to 27 assembly groups in nine provinces, all with good results. This is a necessary step to avoid possible contradictions and complications in families and clans that might negatively affect the stable life of ordinary people. Results secured in the provinces mentioned above and in other highland localities of northern Vietnam have guided and will continue to guide religious people and assemply groups to register their religious activities in accordance with the Prime Minister’s Instruction.