Monday, November 22, 2010

Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Vietnam

The U.S. State Department just released its International Religious Freedom Report 2010, confirming that the lack of religious freedom in Vietnam is still a problem for loyal American allies known as the Montagnard people. Many of the Montagnards converted to Christianity because of the French and American missionaries who were in their country. They are persecuted for their beliefs in their home country today.

Another article titled "Vietnam slams US State Department religious freedom report as biased, incorrect" was recently published. It's a short article, so I'll post it here in case it gets removed later:
Vietnam slams US State Department religious freedom report as biased, incorrect 
HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam's communist government has slammed the U.S. State Department's annual religious freedom report, calling it biased and based on incorrect information.
The report on the status of religious freedom worldwide, released Wednesday, noted an improved respect for religious freedom and practices in Vietnam, but said significant problems remained.
"Some religious believers continued to experience harassment or repression, particularly those who had not applied for or been granted legal sanction," the report said. "In a number of instances, local officials forced church gatherings to cease, closed unregistered house churches, and pressured individuals to renounce their religious beliefs."
Vietnam's foreign ministry said the report "continues to produce biased assessment that is built on incorrect information on Vietnam."
"In Vietnam, the rights to freedom of belief and religion of the Vietnamese people are enshrined in the national constitution and are respected and guaranteed in reality," ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said in a statement posted on the ministry's website late Thursday.
There are a dozen sanctioned religions in Vietnam, a nation of 86 million people, with Buddhism and Christianity the largest. Those not recognized by the communist government are outlawed.

It's obvious that Vietnam wants the world to think they're improving human rights and religious freedoms, whether they are actually doing that or not. Our country gives a lot of lip service to improving human rights.  There are economic benefits that come with trading with the United States, and we can use that as leverage to improve human rights for our loyal allies, the Montagnards.  An article stated recently that the US is "Vietnam's largest export market and is currently one of the six largest foreign investors in the country with committed investment of $15 billion."

Our country is trading and investing in a country that treats our loyal allies poorly, but we can change that.  The media has identified a key motivating factor for the Vietnamese--$15 billion.

Abandoned Allies explores these things on film.  These are things I knew nothing about when we started the project in March 2008.  Knowing what I know now, I am hopeful that we can see positive change take shape.  I don't pretend to have the answers, but I know that awareness can lead to change.

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