Vietnam’s New Religious Decree Further Burdens Local Churches - Living Strong Television Network
Vietnam’s New Religious Decree Further Burdens Local Churches

Pastors and religious liberty advocates worry the government’s effort to manage religion will bring tighter control.

Operating a church in Vietnam just became even more difficult thanks to new government regulations that went into effect over the weekend. Under Decree 95, the government will now require religious groups to submit financial records and allow local government officials to suspend religious activities for unspecified “serious violations.”

Nguyen Ti Dinh of Vietnam’s religious affairs committee said the guidelines will improve how the government manages religion by implementing uniform measures for the 2018 Law on Belief and Religion, which requires religious groups to register with the government. Observers believe the decree is Vietnam’s attempt to demonstrate to the international community that it is trying to increase religious liberty and to get off the US State Department’s Special Watch List for countries engaged in religious freedom violations.

Yet religious liberty advocates and local church leaders believe the new rules will do the opposite. Instead of making it easier to register churches, the government is requiring more oversight and control. If the Vietnamese government is trying to show the international community that it is serious about religious freedom, noted Hien Vu, Vietnam program manager of the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE), it needs to explain how the new policy would achieve that.

“With this decree, it’s like Vietnam shot themselves in the foot,” Vu said.

The Southeast Asian country, where Christians make up 8 percent of the population, is ranked No. 35 in the Open Doors’ list of most difficult countries to be a Christian. While Christians can worship freely in bigger cities, believers among ethnic minority groups and in rural areas still face …

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