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VIETNAM: New religious law

The Vietnamese government is speeding the approval process of its new law on religions and beliefs, which has been sharply criticised by the country’s religious leaders since April, 2015.

Overshadowed by the 12th Communist Party Congress last January and the election of the new National Assembly in May, the draft has taken center stage again, with the government pledging to have it adopted this year.

The Patriotic Front, an organization linked to the Communist Party, met to discuss ‘expert opinions on the draft law on beliefs and religions.’ The meeting resulted in a new version of the law, which has not been made public for now. However, the Party has published speeches by some prominent Vietnamese religious leaders with close ties to the authorities.

Official media reported the words of Thich Thien Duc, General Secretary of the Management Committee of the ‘Buddhist Church,’ an institution founded and sponsored by the state. Overall, he came out in favor of the law with some minor criticism.

The second address cited in the communist press was by a Catholic, Pham Huy Thong, presented as head of the Commission on Religious Thought, linked to the Centre for the Scientific Study of Ideas, set up by the Party. Pham Huy Thong noted several positive aspects in the new legislation, including the freedom of citizens to practice or not a religion, a right also granted to prisoners, as well as the inclusion of religions in public discussions on education, vocational training, and medical care.

Since it was first presented in April, 2015, the draft has sparked protests from leaders of the main religious institutions, including Caodaists and Catholics, and a sharp criticism from the Bishop of Kontum, Msgr Michael Hoang Duc Qanh (in photo).


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