Catholics in Vietnam Fear New Laws on Religion
ICC Note: The Vietnamese government is anxious to look like it supports religious freedom by instituting these new laws. Catholic leaders in Vietnam have boldly raised alarm bells, however, noting that the communist government is actually seeking to exert even greater control over churches.
By Gregory Tomlin
05/07/2015 Vietnam (Christian Examiner)
Communist officials in Vietnam are for the first time seeking the input of the country’s Catholic leaders on proposed legislation addressing faith and religion, but many bishops there believe the effort at transparency is only an attempt to “appear democratic,” AsiaNews reported May 4.
Several of the nation’s Catholic bishops have taken the highly unusual – and risky – step of criticizing the proposed laws publicly, saying any new laws on religion would expand the government’s already-tight control over churches.
While a draft of the laws has not been made public, Bishop Hoang Duc Oanh, who leads one of the oldest Catholic missions in Kontum, claimed in a letter to government officials that “developed countries do not need any agency in charge of religion.”
The letter, written after a review of the proposed legislation and also signed by Bishop Emeritus Tran Thanh Chung and others, said it was “absurd that ‘non-believers’ want to set the rules for people of faith.”
Vietnam’s constitution guarantees – on paper at least – freedom of religion, but that freedom only extends so far as it does not contravene the interests of the majority, or in this case, the will of the Communist Party. Catholics are generally allowed to practice their faith openly, but other groups such as Protestants face tight controls and, on many occasions, severe persecution.