Vietnam guarantees citizen’s right to freedom of belief and religion


On June 14, 2013, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs and the European Union co-organized a seminar themed “Religions in Vietnam in context of international integration – international experience”.

The seminar offered an opportunity for participants to share information on the religious situation in Vietnam in the current trend of international integration. It was also a forum to exchange international experience in protecting the right to freedom of belief and religion.  Vietnam is a multi-religion nation with many religious followers. Religious policy is one of the important policies of the Party and State of Vietnam. Vietnam began its renewal process in 1986, marked by the Resolution of the fourth National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Up to now, Vietnam has recorded great economic, cultural and social achievements. During the process, the renovation of the religious policy has brought in important achievements, basically changing the religious life in Vietnam.

The change in the religious life in Vietnam was a result of a new perception on religion and the religious policy of the Vietnamese Party and State, including two new points. The first point is defining religion as a spiritual need of a part of people, thus persisting with the policy of respecting and ensuring citizens’ right to freedom of belief and religion; and the second one is recognising and promoting positive cultural and moral values of religions while encouraging progressive religious activities for the benefits of the nation and people.
The changes in the religious life have affirmed the soundness of the religious policy of the Vietnamese Party and State, thus making religious dignitaries and followers more confident in the Party and State as well as the country’s renewal process. In addition, religious dignitaries and followers have actively supported and taken part in the renewal process, contributing to Vietnam’s political stability and socio-economic development.
The past changes have also helped highlight the image of a Vietnamese country of peace, stability and development, thus raising its influence and position in the international arena. They are evidence for arguments against the tones of domestic and foreign hostile forces that distort the religious situation and policy in Vietnam.
The religious renovation is derived from the Vietnamese religious situation and the country’s history, culture and real condition in the period of international integration. The renovation of religion in Vietnam matches the country’s economic cultural and social renovations. Vietnam will continue to uphold and consistently implement its religious policy in the time to come.
PhD. Hoang Van Nghia: Vietnam fully respects international laws on belief and religion
The religious diversity in the religious and social life in Vietnam is a basic identity of Vietnamese culture, especially in the period of integration and development. Together with the deep international integration and globalisation of all aspects of social life, new religions have been introduced and welcomed in Vietnam, enriching the country's religious diversity.
Recognising religious diversity in social life is difficult but recognising the existence and values of all religions with tolerant attitude is more difficult. However, our attitude towards the role of religious diversity in social life, conservation and promotion of cultural diversity would be specially important for respecting and ensuring basic rights and freedom of each citizen, especially the right to freedom of belief and religion.
The right to freedom of religion in particular and human rights in general, can only be guaranteed on the basis of respecting, protecting and promoting religious diversity. At the same time, religious diversity is a condition and means to realize the right to freedom of religion and human rights.
The reality of the respect for and guarantee of religious diversity and religious freedom in the world can only be based on the culture of tolerance - the culture of human rights with respect for, and full implementation of, national, regional and international standards. This is a condition for the appearance and development of human rights, social advance, democracy and civilization. Building and disseminating a culture of religious tolerance in particular, and a culture of human rights in general, is a noble mission of all religions in  the world and the whole international community as well, especially the United Nations, each nation, community and  individual.
Naturally, human rights express the unity between right and duty, individual freedom and freedom by laws. Therefore, the right to freedom of belief and religion cannot separate from national and international laws, cultural traditions, national identities and socio-economic conditions of each nation. Freedom of belief and religion must be practiced in the framework of the Vietnamese Constitution and law. The Vietnamese law stipulates that: “in case that an international treaty signed or acceded to by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam contains a provision different from that of this Ordinance, the provision of the international treaty shall prevail” (Article No. 38 of the 2004 Ordinance on Belief and Religion).  In practice, when the Vietnamese State joint an international treaty on human rights, it has performed its duty to make its international regulations into domestic laws as well as to take other necessary legislative, judiciary and executive measures over the past years, thus clearly demonstrating its respect for, and serious execution of, international commitments.
Mr. Nguyen Thanh Son: Vietnam respects principles of fundamental human rights related to religion.
There are some fundamental principles in international documents on human rights related to freedom of belief and religion. The five following principles are also basic ones that Vietnam has applied in both theory and reality to guarantee human rights in the religious field in the current international trend.
1. Principle of fundamental human rights:   freedom of belief and religion is a basic right. All individuals are entitled to the right to freedom of belief and religion without any pressure and oppression. This right is given to all people but ethnic people, women, children, people with disabilities, prisoners or refugees need special care and protection. The right to freedom of belief and religion is shown in the freedom to select, preserve or change beliefs and religions, and practice them in reasonable ways.
2. Principle of non-discrimination: all forms of discrimination related to belief and religion must be opposed. Discrimination is expressed in many forms such as preventing, restricting and having prejudice against a religion or a belief in order to eliminate or harm the recognition and practice of such a belief or religion. The international community recognizes that it is necessary to support religious understanding, tolerance and respect when resolving issues related to the right to freedom of belief and religion. Any nation, institution, organization or individual must not be allowed to have any discrimination against other nations, institutions, organizations or individuals for belief-related reasons. All nations need to apply measures to prevent and eliminate religious discriminations.
3. Principle of legal protection: all sovereign nations should implement and protect the right to freedom of belief and religion through legislative and other measures. The implementation of the right must not violate the law and harm public interests, basic rights and freedom of other people.
The governments should issue or annul laws and take measures to protect the right to freedom of belief and religion as well as to ban any religious discrimination. While expressing their freedom of religion and belief, all individuals must abide by the law to maintain public order and social ethics, and to respect basic rights and freedom of others.
4. Principle of strengthening dialogue: it is necessary to encourage religious tolerance and replace confrontation with dialogue in order to promote friendship and preserve the world peace. The right to freedom of religion and belief needs to contribute to global peace, social justice protection and friendship among nations, communities and religious organizations. It is necessary to promote dialogue and eliminate confrontation in this field. Peace among nations is the final result of all great political, social and religious evolvements.
5. Principle of respect for national sovereignty: using religion as a tool to intervene in internal affairs of other nations must not be allowed. This is an extremely important principle in international relations. This principle opposes the incitation of hostilities between ethnic groups and countries or interference in internal affairs of other nations with religious discrimination reasons.  The international community needs to respect and consider the whole performance of the right to freedom of religion and belief in each nation based on a common standard, with an objective, equal and fair attitude.
Truong Bach