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Promoting the role of entities of state management of religion in current situation

(PTOJ) - The entities of state management of religion play a significant role in strengthening the implementation of the Party and State’s policies on belief and religion; contributing to the great national unity bloc; ensuring national security, maintaining social order and safety... To enhance this role, the article proposes solutions about raising awareness of cadres, civil servants, and party members; building a contingent of cadres; perfecting the legal system on religion; improving the effectiveness of communication and education; innovating methods of inspection, supervision, and settlement when there are violations in the field of state management of religion.

Delegates at the meeting of the typical religious dignitaries and deacons in 2019 - Source: btgcp.gov.vn

In a broad sense, state management of religion is the process of using state power of state agencies prescribed by law to regulate and orient religious processes and activities of organizations and individuals according to the law, achieving the specific objectives of management. In a narrow sense, it is the activities of agencies in the executive system that participate in the process of law observance and organize the implementation of the law to regulate religious activities of religious organizations and individuals according to the provisions of the law.

Either way, in the state management of religion, there must be management entities. In a broad sense, the entities of state management of religion are state agencies belonging to the legislative, executive, and judicial systems. In a narrow sense, it includes state agencies belonging to the executive system, that is, the Government and people’s committees at all levels.

In this article, the main subject of state management of religion is the Government and People’s Committees at all levels. The Government consists of ministries and ministerial-level agencies, in which the Prime Minister has the highest responsibility. People’s Committees at all levels, in which the Presidents of the People’s Committees at all levels have the main responsibility. To perform related tasks, the Government and People’s Committees at all levels empower to agencies and individuals related to state management in the field of responsibility related to religion, such as Committee for Religious Affairs, Natural Resources and Environment (mainly state management of land), Public Security (state management in the field of security and order), and so on.

The entities of state management of religion in our country have the following advantages:

First, in terms of awareness, all understand state management of religion is a special form of state management, with special management objects and a wide scope (religious individuals and organizations or individuals and organizations that are legally empowered to manage those who have activities related to religion). Recently, there have been fundamental and comprehensive changes in the awareness of all levels and sectors on religion, as well as the role of religion and the state management of religion in Vietnamese social life. In the documents of the 13th Party Congress, it is affirmed that “Advocating, uniting, and gathering religious organizations, dignitaries and believers to live a good and religious life and actively contribute to the construction and defence of the Fatherland. To ensure that religious organizations operate in accordance with the law and charters recognized by the State”(1). However, there is still a part of cadres and civil servants who do not fully understand the subject, object, content, method, position, and role of the state management of religion.

Second, in terms of structure and organization, the current state management apparatus on religion ensures the principles of Party leadership, State management, and mobilization by the Fatherland Front as well as mass organizations. The apparatus, cadres, and civil servants in charge of state management of religion are organized according to the system from the central to the local levels. The Government Committee for Religious Affairs under the Ministry of Home Affairs is the State management agency in charge of religion and belief at the central level; at the provincial level is the Department of Religious Affairs under the Provincial Department of Home Affairs; at the district level is the division of religious affairs under the Department of Home Affairs; at the commune level, there is only full-time or part-time staffs are assigned. Besides the agencies in charge of State management of religion, there are also non-specialized organizations engaged in religious work such as the Mass Mobilization Committee at all levels, the Vietnam Fatherland Front and other socio-political organizations, public security forces at all levels.

Regarding the quantity and quality of cadres and civil servants in charge of State management of religion: in 63 provinces and cities, full-time cadres accounted for 98%, part-time cadres accounted for 2%, and qualification of State management cadres on religion is increasing(2). In general, cadres and civil servants in charge of state management of religion meet the requirements of their work duties.

Third, in terms of formulating policies and promulgating legal documents on religion, the 2016 Law on Belief and Religion was introduced to overcome previous shortcomings. To concretize and guide the implementation of the Law on Belief and Religion, on December 30, 2017, the Government issued Decree No. 162/2017/ND-CP detailing some articles and measures on implementation of the Law on Belief and Religion. In addition, the content of State management of religion is related to various fields and aspects of social life. Therefore, the Government and other authorized State agencies such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, relevant ministries, and agencies have issued legal documents to create uniform working aspects.

Besides the achievements, in the development and issuance of documents and policies related to the state management of religion, there are certain limitations, such as the promulgation of documents, plans, direction, especially the plans on fields which often have disputes such as land and construction are still slow and impractical. The development and implementation of legal documents have generalized the management fields, but there is still a lack of documents stipulating handling measures and sanctions to be applied when there are violations of the law related to belief and religion. The issuance of documents sometimes overlaps, does not ensure consistency, lacks documents regulating newly arising contents related to religion such as charity, social, health protection, etc.

Fourth, in terms of disseminating the Party’s viewpoints, guidelines, and policies, as well as the State’s laws on religion and the State management of religion. Every year, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs regularly organizes training conferences, fostering knowledge, professional skills, the law on belief and religion for officials and civil servants engaged in religion and religious work. In addition, with the functions and tasks prescribed by law, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs directs the Provincial Committees of Religious Affairs to promote communication and law dissemination for religious dignitaries and assistants.

Across the country, there are 2,859 people have been trained and fostered in religious work (87 people have been trained, 2,772 people have been fostered)(3).

Along with communicating, disseminating, and educating policies and laws on religion for cadres and civil servants, the target audience is also dignitaries, officials, followers of religions, and people in the area. The content and methods of communication are innovative and diverse.

However, there are still limitations such as there is no methodical and stable communication and education content; attention has been paid only to the number of officials and the number of organizations while have not yet assessed the quality and its application in practice; emphasis has been placed only on listing the contents of opinions and provisions of the law, but not much attention has been paid to the classification of the contents of opinions and provisions of the law...

Fifth, the inspection, examination, and handling of violations are carried out regularly, timely detecting loopholes in the management work; directing localities to solve the problem, ensuring the effectiveness and efficiency in the State management of religion. Through inspection and examination, violations have been discovered due to the loose management of organizations and individuals to commit violations of religious law. The petitions of religious individuals and organizations are handled by the authorities at all levels in accordance with policies and laws, in line with reality and shortening the review time. Besides the achieved aspects, this work also revealed limitations such as the number of inspections and examination is still insignificant compared to actual requirements; local authorities still have loose management without frequent inspections or examination in a timely manner, especially in repair or construction of worship facilities...

To continue promoting the role of the entities of State management of religion, to overcome the limitations and inadequacies, it is necessary to implement the following solutions in the coming period:

First, raising awareness of cadres, civil servants, and party members about religion and state management of religion. It is necessary to raise awareness and unify the guiding views of the Party committees, authorities, Vietnam Fatherland Front at all levels, and mass organizations on religion and state management of religion. In the process of raising and unifying the awareness of religion and state management of religion, it is necessary to thoroughly grasp the spirit of the 2013 Constitution and the guiding documents on religious work and state management of religion. Bringing the views of the 13th Party Congress on religion to life, which emphasizes “Promoting good cultural and ethical values as well as resources of religions for the cause of national development”(4) in the entire political system to make cadres, civil servants, and party members clearly aware of the views, requirements, and tasks of religious work and state management of religion in the new situation.

Cadres and civil servants tasked with state management of religion must firmly, properly, and clearly understand the contents of state management of religion. The contents of state management of religion are specified in the 2016 Law on Belief and Religion and Decree No. 162/2017/ND-CP dated December 30, 2017, detailing some articles and measures to implement the Law on Belief and Religion.

From understanding the contents of religious work and state management of religion, cadres and civil servants need to realize their scope, powers, and responsibilities. It should be affirmed that the core content of religious work is mass mobilization, while religious work is the responsibility of the whole political system led by the Party; state management of religion is the concretization of the views and guidelines of the Party and the State in the adjustment and orientation of religious activities in accordance with Vietnamese law, the Charter of religion.

Second, building a contingent of cadres in charge of state management of religion in sufficient quantity and quality. The success or failure of State management and State management of religion largely depends on cadres and personnel work. The governments at all levels need to strictly follow the Decision No. 32/2018/QD-TTg dated August 3, 2018, of the Prime Minister on the Regulations on functions, tasks, powers, and organizational structure of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs under the Ministry of Home Affairs; Decision No. 174/QD-TTg dated February 9, 2017, approving the proposal on training cadres and civil servants doing religious work. To ensure the number of concerned cadres and civil servants, the People’s Committees at all levels need to have a methodical plan to create resources, regularly consolidate and perfect the organization of the state management apparatus on religion, primarily is the commune level. At the same time, there must be a plan to train and select cadres doing religious work and state management of religion.

In the long term, the Provincial People’s Committees need to exchange and coordinate with training institutions to select cadres who are well-trained in philosophy, religion, and have certain knowledge about religion. The Provincial Departments of Home Affairs should advise the Provincial People’s Committees on the criteria of selecting civil servants with professional qualifications in religion and State administrative management in the field of religion.

In the immediate future, it is essential to regularly have training plans, actively create resources and build a contingent of cadres according to the requirements and tasks of the locality and the religious situation in the area. In the process of training the number of officials who oversee state management of religion, it is necessary to focus on fostering basic and specialized knowledge about religion; religious work skills and professions; skills in handling religious cases.

Third, step by step perfecting the legal system for State management of religion. In the coming time, it is necessary to correct the legal terms to facilitate the application of state management agencies in charge of religion; clearly define in the law the issues related to the state management of religion with other fields of social life, avoiding duplication, causing difficulties for management; amending laws that are not very reasonable when applied to different religions; supplementing legal regulations governing new issues arising in the State management of religion, such as areas related to international relations of religions, charitable activities, social assistance, education, health... related to religion.

Local religious state management agencies need to thoroughly grasp and strictly implement regulations on religion and state management of religion. At the same time, concretizing legal documents into the guiding views of the Party committees and authorities at all levels on the principle of ensuring consistency and synchronization. During law enforcement, if there are any issues found unreasonable or inconsistent with reality, they should seek professional advice, give opinions and suggestions to their superiors in amending and supplementing the law.

Fourth, renovating and improving the quality and effectiveness of communication, education, and dissemination of the Party’s guidelines and policies, the State’s laws on religion and state management of religion to the cadres, party members and the masses, believers, and dignitaries of different religions. The focus of this work is leading, directing, and thoroughly implementing the 2016 Law on Belief and Religion and Decree No. 162/2017/ND-CP dated December 30, 2017, detailing some articles and measures to implement the Law on Belief and Religion.

The communication for cadres, civil servants, party members, and the masses must be diversified, flexible, and immediately applied. Increasing the use of information technology. Regularly communicating, disseminating, and educating followers of all religions and people about the Party’s guidelines and policies, the State’s laws, especially identifying conspiracies, tricks of hostile forces that have been taking advantage of religious issues to sabotage Vietnam. In communication, it is especially important to educate, persuade and arouse the national spirit, patriotism, and civic consciousness for the believers. It is absolutely not advisable to overemphasize the difference between the State and religion. The believers and the masses must be oriented towards economic development, improving material and spiritual life; well perform civic duty; unite to build a cultural life in residential areas, the national program on building new countryside, living a good and religious life.

Fifth, innovating the method of inspection, supervision, and handling when there are violations in the field of State management of religion. It is necessary to unify the point of view that sanction is the last resort in the state management of religion. However, for serious and repeated violations, it is imperative to have sanctions that are sufficient to deter and ensure respect for the law. Inspection, supervision, and handling of violations should be considered on both sides: the side of state agencies, cadres and civil servants assigned to perform the state management of religion and the side of religious organizations and individuals.

The inspection and examination must be associated with the evaluation and commendation of collectives and individuals with outstanding achievements, and at the same time with the consideration and handling of violations of individuals and state administrative agencies which violate the state management of religion.

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Endnotes:

(1), (4) CPV: Documents of the 13th National Party Congress, Vol. I, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, pp.171, 171.

(2), (3) Ha Ngoc Anh: State management of religious activities in Vietnam today, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2020, p.96, 97, 99, 101.

MA. DO QUANG HUY

People’s Security Academy

 

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