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Tuesday, 24 September 2019 10:15
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Some principles of handling ethnic and religious issues in Vietnam nowadays

(LLCT) - The issue of ethnicity and religion in Vietnam is always very sensitive and complicated. If it is not properly resolved, it will lead to instability in politics, social order and safety, creating an excuse for hostile forces to intervene in national internal affairs. Therefore, in order to successfully solve the issues related to ethnicity and religion, it is necessary to comply with the following principles: ensuring political security, social order and safety; ensuring the rights of ethnic minorities, the people's right to freedom of religion, and at the same time resolutely fighting against the abuse of ethnicity and religious issues for political purposes; ensuring solidarity among ethnic minorities and religions; improving the material and spiritual life of ethnic and religious people. All of these requirements are the responsibility of the whole political system under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Keywords: ethnicity, religion.

1. Ethnic and religious issues in Vietnam

Vietnam is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. The history of Vietnamese nation shows that when the secular state had appropriate policies to solve ethnic and religious issues, peoples and religions might join hands and stand together in national defense. Conversely, at any stage in which the State had inappropriate ethnic and religious policies, it would create ethnic and religious conflicts, which could lead to political instability or even bring about great impact conducive to the collapse of the political regime.

In fact, in the recent years, Vietnam’s ethnic and religious issues have potential risks of instability in political security. The hostile forces internal and abroad always search for ways to incite ethnic and religious issues to divide the block of national solidarity, and to incite national hatred in order to sabotage the Communist Party and the State of Vietnam and implement the plot of “peaceful evolution”. From the 2000s to present, hot spots on ethnicity and religion have occurred in many localities across the country, such as the complicated problems arising from the activities of Protestants for ethnic minorities in the Northwest and Central Highlands. In particular, the Protestantism-based riots in 2001 and 2004 related to the attempt to establish the Degar autonomous State in the Central Highlands, and Protestantism was also associated with the 2011 riots in Dien Bien, which related to the proclamation of the King and welcoming God of the Mong people in the Northwest region. Uncertainties related to the security situation in the Southwest region were associated with Theravada Buddhism and the Khmer community under the guise of establishing the Khmer State; the risks of ethnic division occurred in the Cham and Chinese communities, etc. In addition, disputes and complaints related to land and religious worship facilities have increased in many places with complicated cases such as Tra Co parish (Dong Nai), Loan Ly parish (Hue), Lap Thach parish (Vinh), the cases occurred in No. 42 Nha Chung and 178 Nguyen Luong Bang (Hanoi), the case “Tam toa” (Quang Binh), Con Dau parish (Da Nang), etc.

2. Principles in handling ethnic and religious issues in Vietnam today

Firstly, resolving the issue of ethnicity and religion must ensure the rights of ethnic minorities, and the people’s right of religious freedom. At the same time, fight against the abuse of ethnic and religious issues for political purposes.

The concept of “rights of ethnic minorities” and “religious freedom” is officially recognized in two international conventions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations (UDHR) in 1948 and International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1966(1). These are the two fundamental international legal documents recognizing the fundamental civil, political and legal rights of humans, of which ethnic minorities have full civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights as non-religious people. The same is applied to religious and non-religious people; there is no discrimination between the ethnic majority and ethnic minorities, between people with religious beliefs and those without religious beliefs; among people with different religious beliefs.

As a multi-religious nation, Vietnam has maintained the principle and objective throughout the revolutionary line, which is national equality and religious equality. In the Constitution of Vietnam, equal rights of ethnic minorities are recorded in the first chapters in a consistent and outstanding mode, affirming that ethnic minorities have equal rights, adhere to solidarity, and respect, and help each other to advance together (Chapter I, Constitutions of 1959, 1992; Chapter II, Constitutions of 1946, 1980; Article 5, Chapter I, Constitution of 2013). The interest of the Communist Party and the State towards ethnic minorities is also reflected in affirming civil right in determining their ethnicity, affirming the State’s priority in economic development for ethnic minority areas (Article 42, Chapter II and Article 61, Chapter III, Vietnam Constitution of 2013).

Concerning religion, Article 24, Vietnam Constitution of 2013 clearly states: “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of belief and religion, and has the right to follow any religion or to follow no religion. All religions are equal before law. 2. The State shall respect and protect the freedom of belief and religion. 3. No one may violate the freedom of belief and religion, nor may anyone take advantage of a belief or religion in order to violate the law”(2).

The consistent policy of the Communist Party and the State of Vietnam in ethnic and religious issues is to build a block of great unity and equality for ethnic communities, religious communities, and non-religious people; comprehensive development of the economy, politics and society to ensure the rights of ethnic minorities and religious people in all areas of life, based on the national legal system and some specific policies for ethnic minorities. Therefore, resolving ethnic and religious issues must ensure justice and equality, with no discrimination between the majority and ethnic minorities; and between an established religion and a new religion recognized by the State. It is necessary to fight against nationalist narrowness, extremism or self-deprecation. The rights of ethnic minorities and of religions must be ensured in the following areas:

- In the political aspect: ensuring equal rights of ethnic people, and those who have religious beliefs in voting and standing for election.

- In the socio-economic field: ensuring the right to access and enjoy social resources, the right to participate in the process of socio-economic development of ethnic minorities and religious followers. Ensuring the people’s freedom to follow or not follow any religion, the right of ethnic minorities and religious followers to conduct legal religious activities.

- In the cultural field: ensuring the right to create and enjoy cultural values of ethnic minority people and people with religious beliefs; ensuring respect and promotion of the languages, scripts, and fine customs and practices of ethnic minorities; respecting and promoting the good cultural and moral values of religions for national construction and development.

In addition, the implementation of ethnic equality is also to ensure equality in the relationship of interests between ethnic groups. The State has the responsibility to help ethnic groups whose economic development is slow to achieve the common development level as other ethnic groups in the country. Implementing equal rights among religions is to ensure that all religions are given the same favorable conditions during their operation; ensuring the conditions for religious activities; the property of all religions is protected by law; good cultural and moral values of religions are respected and encouraged to religious followers and dignitaries are regulated according to the law.

Ensuring the rights of peoples and religions, but at the same time strictly dealing with activities of abusing ethnic and religious issues for political purposes against the nation, causing political insecurity, and doing harms to social order and safety as the Communist Party of Vietnam points out in the document of the 10th  Congress: “Fighting to prevent acts of abusing ethnic, belief and religious issues to operate illegally, of inciting to divide people, ethnic groups and religions, and to harm the common interests of the country ”(3).

Secondly, resolving ethnic and religious issues must ensure solidarity among ethnic minorities and religions

During the process of leading the revolution, the Communist Party of Vietnam always attaches special importance to the issue of great national unity, considering this as a strategy of the revolution, a driving force and a great resource for construction and protect the country. In the strategy of national unity, solidarity among ethnic groups and religions is important because religion and people have a close relationship. In order to bring into full play the great national unity, there must be a unity of the whole people, and a very important role must be played by ethnic minorities and religious people. Therefore, resolving well ethnic and religious issues will create an important premise to realize the goal of great national unity.

Reality of Vietnam’s national history shows that people of all ethnic groups and religions in Vietnam have united to live together for a long time as their own flesh and blood, sharing the weal and woe. That traditional unity has been preserved and promoted throughout thousands of years of history. However, ethnic and religious issues are always exploited by hostile forces to divide and sabotage the great national unity block, undermining the cause of revolution. In particular, after the United Nations issued the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (in 2007), political forces outside Vietnam are aggressively taking advantage of ethnic and religious issues to incite for “national self-determination rights” among indigenous people to form autonomous lands in the heart of Vietnam. Therefore, resolving ethnic and religious issues must ensure the goal of uniting ethnic groups and religions.

Thirdly, resolving ethnic and religious issues must ensure political stability, social order and safety

Religion and ethnicity are the highly sensitive issues. If not properly resolved, they may lead to the risk of political and social instability, and to create easily excuse for outside political forces to interfere in the internal affairs of the country.

Therefore, the settlement of ethnic and religious issues must be aimed at ensuring political security, social order and safety, especially in areas with a high concentration of ethnic minorities such as the Northern mountainous region, the Central Highlands and the Southwestern part of Vietnam. In areas of ethnic minorities and border areas, dealing with ethnic and religious issues must be associated with ensuring border security and protecting national territorial integrity.

Fourthly, resolving ethnic and religious issues must ensure better material and spiritual life for ethnic minorities

Solving ethnic and religious issues is aimed at the stability and sustainable development of the political regime; it cannot be separated from the goal of improving the material and spiritual life for ethnic minorities and religious people.

In general, ethnic minorities in Vietnam are still faced with socio-economic difficulties, or low educational level, high rate of school dropouts. In addition, the majority of ethnic minorities live mainly in difficulty-accessible mountainous areas. They live scattered, have few opportunities to access services, social welfare and the market economy. The socio-economic life in such area is still underdeveloped, based mostly on nature with obsolete production methods and farming practices.

In some delta regions, due to many factors, including religious factors themselves, the living standard of a part of religious people is also lower than that of non-religious ones. Therefore, resolving ethnic and religious issues must ensure their better material and spiritual life to gradually reduce the gap in living standards and development levels among ethnic groups and religious people between the majority and ethnic minorities, between religious followers and non-religious people.

Socio-economic development in areas of ethnic minority and religious people is to improve their material and spiritual life. It is a fundamental factor to carry out national solidarity and religious unity, to create people’s trust in the guidelines and policies of the Communist Party and State, uniting all the people for successful national construction and defense.

Fifthly, resolving ethnic and religious issues is the responsibility of the whole political system under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam

Ethnic minorities are an integral part of the Vietnamese community; ethnic minority people and people of different religions are a part of the Vietnamese community. Stability of the political regime, and the care of the Communist Party and the State are the decisive factors to stabilize the living condition of ethnic groups and religious people, making their material and spiritual life greatly improved. However, ethnic and religious issues also have a great impact on the stability of the political regime. Issues related to ethnicity and religion, if not resolved in a timely and proper manner, may pose challenges to the existence of the political regime. Therefore, addressing ethnic and religious issues requires the participation of the whole political system in order to improve the material and spiritual life for ethnic minorities and religious people, ensuring their rights, solidarity, and the great unity block nationwide, and aiming to build and firmly protect the socialist Vietnamese country.

In dealing with ethnic and religious issues, the Communist Party of Vietnam has guidelines and policies meeting with the condition of ethnicity and religion in Vietnam; The State translates the guidelines of the Communist Party of Vietnam into specific policies and organizes the realization of ethnic-religious policies. Socio-political organizations should join hands with the State in policy implementation. In particular, the Fatherland Front at all levels should be a bridge between the Communist Party and the State on the one hand, ethnic minorities and religious people on the other, which plays a role of rallying and uniting religious followers;

We should promote the synergy of the entire political system in solving ethnic and religious issues to ensure equality between people and religions, improve the material and spiritual life of ethnic minorities and religious people, consolidate the national unity, and contribute to ensure stability and sustainable development of the country.

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Endnotes:

 (1) The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 (Article 2) states: “Everyone is entitled to all rights and freedoms without any distinction, treatment of race, color, gender, language, religion, ethnic origin or society”. The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1966 (Article 3) states: “In countries with many ethnic groups, religions and languages living together, individuals belong to ethnic groups, religions, languages and minorities, along with other members of their communities, cannot be deprived of their right to enjoy their own culture, the right to express and practice their own religion or the right to use their own voice”.

(2) Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam in 2013.

(3) CPV: Document of the 10th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2006, p.42.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Hoang Thi Lan

Institute of Research for Religion and Belief

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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