Protestants in Vietnam

Ha Noi, April 7 -- Viet Nam has slammed references in the World Evangelical Fellowship's recent report which said " religious climate for Protestants in Viet Nam is still difficult. Protestants are detained, beaten and prisoned" as "sheer, ill-intentioned fabrication."

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Phan Thuy Thanh was responding on April 6 to a BBC correspondent who had sought Viet Nam's reaction to the WEF report. She said:

" Report of the World Evangelical Fellowship is sheer, ill-intentioned fabrication. As declared time and again, the Vietnamese Party and State have always regarded religious belief as a spiritual demand of part of the Vietnamese population. The Vietnamese State has ensured the people's freedom of belief and non-belief and forbidden and discriminatory treatment on religious grounds.

The Vietnamese constitution guarantees equal civil rights to people of beliefs and non-belief, but all are equally responsible for observing their civil duties.

All religious activities must abide by the law. Religious activities are guaranteed if they are for the genuine and legitimate interests of believers; and are encouraged if they are conducted in the interests of the country and the people.

On the other hand, any violation of the freedom of belief and any abuse of religions to oppose the socialist Vietnamese State, any attempt to hinder religious followers from realising their civil obligations and jeopardise national unity, amount to violation of national laws. Such activities will attract legal treatment.

In this spirit, protestantism has developed on an equal footing in Viet Nam. I have been told that the country has more than 400 protestant churches with half a million followers. "