Joint Statement in Support of the Vietnam Freedom of Religion or Belief Roundtable and the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion and Belief in Vietnam

April 15, 2016

          We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, would like to applaud and express our support for the formation of the Vietnam Freedom of Religion or Belief Roundtable last month. A direct result of the Asia Pacific Religious Freedom Forum organized by China Aid and held in Taiwan on February 18-21, 2016, the Vietnam FoRB Roundtable has also drawn inspiration from the Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Southeast Asia held on September 30 and October 1, 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand; this conference was co-organized by BPSOS, ICJ, and Forum-Asia. 

          According to its mission statement, Vietnam FoRB Roundtable is “a forum for diverse sectors in society to come together to discuss and promote freedom of religion or belief” according to two core values: compassion and justice. It follows the model of similar roundtables in the United States and Europe.

          The formation of this roundtable is a significant development that would promote freedom of religion or belief in Vietnam, not in isolation but as part of the broader regional and global movements. Through this roundtable, unrecognized religious communities in Vietnam may collaborate on advocacy, provide mutual support, engage government authorities, communicate with foreign diplomatic missions, and interact with similar roundtables already operating or being formed in other countries. 

          We call on the U.S. government to fully support the Vietnam FoRB Roundtable, including inviting the Roundtable to use the premises of U.S. mission and consular posts in for in-person meetings -- due to safety concerns, Roundtable meetings have so far been conducted online. We urge President Barack Obama to meet with the Vietnam FoRB Roundtable during his upcoming state visit to Vietnam. 

          We call on international human rights organizations to maintain vigilance over the safety of Roundtable participants, introduce them to relevant regional and international forums, and ask foreign delegations visiting Vietnam to meet with them or even participate in Roundtable meetings.

 

          The Vietnamese government should welcome the Vietnam FoRB Roundtable, considering it a forum to engage and dialogue with unregistered religious communities. Reporting on his July 2014 mission to Vietnam, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief encouraged the government “to broaden and solidify the very limited and unsafe space for the free unfolding of religious diversity in Vietnam.” He went on to observe that “the situation of independent religious or belief communities should be seen as a test question indicative of the general societal tolerance.” 

          As organizations and individuals who promote greater freedom of religion or belief worldwide, we stand in solidarity with the Vietnam FoRB Roundtable and all its participants. 

ORGANIZATIONS: 

21st Century Wilberforce Initiative 

Advisory Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam 

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights 

Boat People SOS 

Campaign to Abolish Torture in Vietnam 

Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies, Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia 

China Aid 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide 

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office 

Coalition for a Free and Democratic Vietnam 

Coalition to Abolish Modern Day Slavery in Asia 

Con Dau Parishioners Association 

Counterparts 

Freedom House 

Hmong American Partnership 

Human Rights Lawyers Network Without Frontiers (Atlanta) 

Human Rights Without Frontiers International (Brussels) 

International Christian Concern 

International Institute for Religious Freedom 

International Office of Champa 

Jubilee Campaign USA 

Khmers Kampuchea-Krom Federation 

The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice 

Montagnard Human Rights Organization

 

National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition 

People Serving People Foundation 

Popular Council of Cao Dai Religion in Vietnam – Overseas Representative Office 

PROHAM - Society for the Promotion of Human Rights, Malaysia 

Vietnamese Women for Human Rights 

Women for Human Rights in Vietnam 

INDIVIDUALS: 

Datuk Dr. Denison Jayasooria, PROHAM 

Eva Kusuma Sundari, Member, Indonesian House of Representatives; Vice Chair, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights 

Dr. Grant A. McClure, Commanding Officer, Counterparts 

Greg Mitchell, President, The Mitchell Firm 

Helen Ngo, Co-founder of Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam 

John J. Molloy, OSJ, Chairman, National Vietnam & Gulf War Veterans Coalition 

The Honorable Joseph Cao, Former Member of U.S. House of Representatives 

Joshua Wong, Convenor and Founder, Scholarism (Hong Kong) 

Kody Kness, Vice President, China Aid 

Amb. (retired) Mark P. Lagon, President, Freedom House 

CH (COL) Ron Crews, USAR Retired; Endorser, Grace Churches International; Executive Director, Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty 

Rong Nay, Executive Director, Montagnard Human Rights Organization 

Russell Moore, President, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission 

Scott Morgan, President, Red Eagle Enterprises 

Shanu Srivastava, President, American Mortgage Relief 

Rev. Tam Pham, Director, Committee on Justice and Peace, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston 

William C. Walsh, Human Rights Attorney, Bisceglie and Walsh

 
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