Vietnamese Christians Face New Restrictions on Religious Freedom

ICC Note: Vietnamese authorities in the province of Bac Ninh have recently drawn up new rules that would severely limit religious activity in their area. Catholic church leaders have spoken out publicly against the new rules, which they described as “useless nonsense” requiring Christians to obtain permission before hand for nearly all types of religious activity. Vietnam, one of the five remaining Communist nations on earth, is still highly restrictive when it comes to freedom of religion. Christians, especially Protestant Christians belonging to ethnic minorities, regularly face arrest and harassment at the hands of authorities. 

11/27/2013 Vietnam (AsiaNews) – Religious freedom, which is guaranteed by the constitution and existing regulations, “is a right and not a favour”. The draft law not only has “too many unnecessary details” but creates “many obstacles and limitations,” said a group of priests from the Diocese of Bac Ninh in a statement criticising the proposed new rules. The diocese is located in northern Vietnam, and borders the capital.

Called ‘Provisions relating to a number of specific points on the management of religious activities in the territory of Bac Ninh,’ the new rules de facto limit the religious rights of the clergy and the community of the faithful.

The Diocese of Bac Ninh includes five northern provinces plus parts of other provinces. It is home to 120,000 Catholics who represent 1.54 per cent of the population. The bishop is Mgr Cosma Hoang Van Dat, who is also general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Vietnam.

Recently, Bac Ninh provincial authorities drafted rules to enforce a state law on religion. After looking at, the priests reacted with disappointment because they contain “useless nonsense, requiring religions to seek permits and authorisations for every circumstance.”

In their statement, the priests note that detailed and precise rules governing religious activity already exist at the national level.

These recently introduced rules were met with a negative reaction from the leaders of the country’s main religions because they include heavy constraints and limitations on the right to worship.

“Instead of exercising legitimate rights, religious organisations and their representatives are forced to ask for them whenever they organise religious services, train clergy, ordain priests and build (or repair) religious buildings,” the statement said.

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