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5/23/11 Vietnam (AsiaNews) – “‘Overall, the fifth draft amendments for the Government Decree 22/2005 is a huge retrograde step compared to the original one, the Ordinance on Beliefs and Religions, and the Constitution,” remarked Cardinal Jean Baptise Pham Minh Man of the Archdiocese of Saigon in a letter to the Vietnamese Prime Minister. The letter, published on VietCatholic News on May 20, was issued after the prelate had convened representatives of all dioceses in the Ecclesiastical Province of Saigon to a conference on the draft bill a week earlier.

“Essentially,” the prelate went on, “the proposed amendments of the decree reflect the desire of the government to re-establish the mechanism of Asking and Granting in religious activities. The Asking and Granting process turns the legitimate rights of citizens into privileges in the hands of government officials who would grant or withheld them to people through bureaucratic procedures.”

“The mechanism of Asking and Granting, hence, does not only eliminate the freedom rights of people, but also turns a ‘government of people by people and for people’ in to a ‘Master of the country’ who holds in his hands all the rights, and grants or withholds them to people at his random mood swings,” he warned.

Bishops in Vietnam have repeatedly voiced their concerns that the uncompromised nature of religious freedom in Vietnam is still very far from reality due to a ‘jungle of law’ full of ambiguities and contradictions which serves mainly for intents of regulating, circumscribing, and hence controlling religious communities.

The Cardinal concluded his letter by asserting that the Vietnamese Catholic community “earnestly want to see the construction of a legal system that is progressing for the advancement of the people, by the people in order for the country to develop with stability” He cautiously reminded Vietnam government that “By the same token, for the law to be respected, it requires one’s courage to change their mind-set, to respect the objective truth, and change from the fundamentals of the rule of law, rather than just the regulations or the decrees”.

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