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2/27/04 - RELIGION IN VIETNAM - 2004-02-27


Vietnam continues to jail people based on their religious beliefs and practice. In some areas, churches have been closed and some destroyed. There have been credible reports that Hmong Protestants in several northwestern villages and various ethnic minority Protestants in the Central Highlands have been pressured to renounce their faith. There have also been allegations that a few Protestants in those areas were beaten and killed.

The Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam has operated under restrictions for some twenty years. Several of its senior monks are currently in detention, following an attempt last September to organize a new leadership. Patriarch Thich Huyen Quang and his deputy, Thich Quang Do, both Nobel Prize nominees, are once again being held in solitary confinement.

Vietnamese Roman Catholic priest, Father Thadeus Ngyuen Van Ly, a leading advocate of religious freedom and democracy, was sentenced to fifteen years in prison and five years of house arrest for submitting testimony to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. His sentence was recently reduced by five years. No one should be imprisoned solely for the peaceful expression of his views.

President George W. Bush says that American foreign policy should “stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity -- the rule of law, freedom of worship, free speech. . .religious and ethnic tolerance. . .and equal justice”:

“Successful societies guarantee religious liberty.”

Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion are at the heart of international standards of human rights -- standards the government of Vietnam has said it would respect.

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