Tuesday, April 25, 2006

And then there was Vietnam

Hanoi expected to establish diplomatic relations with Vatican soon

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – The Vietnamese government and its Commission on Religious Affairs want to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See and are working on a timetable to reach that goal, Ngo Yen Thi, head of the commission, said at the closing of the Communist Party Congress. Vietnam is also doing its utmost to be accepted by the international community and join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Vietnam has however been often criticised for intolerance against Buddhists, democratic Catholics, and Protestant Montagnards. Many faith-based groups are considered illegal and persecuted, their leaders are arrested and their property destroyed. Even those groups that are legally recognised are subjected to stringent controls over what they can or cannot do.

In 2004, the US State Department designated Vietnam a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom, potentially hampering its bid to join the WTO. But Mr Thi said Vietnam would continue to urge the US to drop this designation, as it aims to join the World Trade Organisation this year.

In the last two years the takeover by the reformist wing of the Communist Party in Hanoi is giving religion greater leeway. Religion is seen first of all as a countervailing force to stem the profound immorality and corruption within the party and society. Greater openness towards religion is also seen as a useful way to promote Vietnam’s ‘new path’.

Yeah, they shouldn't have too much trouble with getting the US to drop that designation. After all, Carter the human rights guru moved the embassy from Taiwan to Beijing and since then, the PRC has joined the WTO despite its disgusting human rights record.

If the reformist wing of the Communist Party does continue to loosen up on religion matters in a serious, meaningful way, the Holy See might want to view Vietnam as a pattern for the People's Republic of China to follow. "Look to your south and see what the Vietnamese have done." The PRC has become known for its corruption and graft. The dose of faith in Vietnam may very well show the solution for the PRC.

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