53 religious communities in Vietnam commemorating victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, with government interference documented in five communities

53 religious communities in Vietnam commemorating victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, with government interference documented in five communities

Press Release by BPSOS

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September 16, 2019

Responding to the call by UN Secretary General António Gutteres, numerous religious communities in Vietnam observed August 22 as International Day Commemorating Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. Observance was conducted in the form of prayer services at churches and temples, outdoor candlelight vigils, or home-based gatherings for silent prayer. See: http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Oppressed-by-the-regime,-Catholics-in-L%E1%BB%99c-H%C6%B0ng-pray-for-religious-freedom-47839

On May 28 of this year the UN General Assembly passed Resolution A/Res/73/296 to designate August 22 of each year to be International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief. Two days later, BPSOS launched a public campaign to inform religious communities in Vietnam about and encourage their support of this resolution.

Of the 53 communities that BPSOS closely monitored, commemoration activities went smoothly except in five Cao Dai communities. An inter-agency team led by a provincial government official trespassed a private home in Cho Gao District where a score of Cao Dai followers had gathered for a commemorating prayer service. They were instructed that the provincial government had not authorized observance of the said UN Resolution. Nevertheless, after the government officials had left, the Cao Dai followers proceeded with their commemorating activity.

In the weeks following August 22,

at least four Cao Dai followers suspected of organizing commemoration activities have received “invitation” to working sessions at the police station. The most concerning retaliatory act documented was a government order instructing the Cao Dai Temple in Hoa Loc, Ben Tre Province, where followers had conducted a silent prayer on August 22, to take down its religious flag that it had flown uninterruptedly for decades.

“We decry such interference or reprisal by the provincial governments,” said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, CEO & President of BPSOS. “UN Resolution A/Res/73/296 was passed by consensus, meaning that Vietnam also supported it.”

As part of this resolution, the UN General Assembly “invites all Member States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations, individuals and the private sector, to observe the International Day in an appropriate manner.”

On August 15, the Committee for Justice and Peace of the Conference of Vietnamese Catholic Bishops published an open letter, urging that all “the dioceses and religious and secular institutes of Consecrated Life simultaneously hold Masses or Eucharistic Adoration sessions on August 22, 2019, to pray for religious freedom and for victims of violence and religious persecution, especially in Vietnam.” Different Catholic dioceses in Vietnam issued similar calls to their respective priests and followers.

In a statement released on August 17, the Junior Sacerdotal Council of the Cao Dai Religion announced that it would hold “commemoration events at 16 locations in Vietnam and 2 locations in the State of Texas, USA, to commemorate the determination to uphold their faith of all the victims of persecution for their religion or beliefs.”

In early August BPSOS launched a website for communities in Vietnam to register their planned commemoration activities: https://www.vncrp.org/ngay-tuong-niem-22-8.

“A team of volunteers well trained to report violations of human rights was assigned to monitor each of the registered communities,” explained Dr. Thang. “Incidents of government interference have been reported to relevant UN agencies and certain foreign governments.”

The 53 communities with commemorating activities monitored and documented by BPSOS included: 23 Catholic communities, 15 Cao Dai communities, 11 Montagnard Christian communities, 2 Buddhist communities and 2 Hoa Hao Buddhist communities. Photos of these activities have been uploaded to the said website.

This website also includes a “Commemorating Wall” featuring victims of acts of violence because of their religions or beliefs based on inputs from the different religious communities. The “Commemorating Wall” will be maintained permanently and regularly updated.

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