Washington D.C., February 13, 2001
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a honour for me - perhap the first Vietnamese Catholic priest who is living under the communist regime in Vietnam - to be invited for presentation of my ideas before a House symbolized for the precious Liberty of humans.
From this precious Liberty forum, I would like to send my new Millennium salution to all of you, to all the people of the vast and civilized American country. I wish all of you and the U.S. nation a new Year, new Century and new Millennium of Truth, Liberty, Peace, Happiness and Helpfulness to all Humankind.
Ladies and Gentlemen
In introducing the Declaration of Independence of September 2, 1945 upon the formation of the Democratic Republic of (Communist) Vietnam, Ho-Chi-Minh deliberately struggled to get U.S. support by solemnly quoting the 2nd paragraph of the U.S. Declaration of Independence of 1776:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".
Though your Nation has only been formed nearly 250 years, the Declaration of Independence of 1776 has pioneered in providing humankind with a genuine and complete concept of LIBERTY and INDEPENDENCE. Nowadays, one may say that any person or organization on this planet who would like to understand what Liberty and Independence is, need only visit your Country and the Americans - where the Statue of Liberty donated by the French is a symbole of LIBERTY. Then all the meanings of Liberty and Independence are genuinely and completely understood.
In the capacity of a witness directly from communist Vietnam for more than 25 years, I would like to directly present my ideas on the three matters in accordance with the Invitation of your Congress:
1- The actual situation of Freedom of religion in Vietnam in early
2- Will the U.S. Congress go ahead to pass the bilateral U.S. - Vietnam Trade Agreement in the Spring of 2001. How will this passing affect freedom of religion in Vietnam?
3- What can the U.S. do to help Vietnam obtain true freedom of religion in the immediate future and in the long term?
Right now, in Vietnam, the banner: "Nothing is more precious than Independence and Liberty" is everywhere. Unfortunately, as they are too precious and rare, we can say exactly that no place and no one has independence and liberty in our country. My absence from this Forum of Liberty is an undeniable evidence of the non-existence of Independence and Liberty in Vietnam. So many young men of our country have carried the banner: "Nothing is more precious than Independence and Liberty" in so many parades, meetings. They are thirsty in waiting for genuine freedoms which have never been materialized.
In the domain of religion, the involvement of the communist State (into the affairs of the religions) makes the churches all lose their independence and liberty.
Nothing reflects truly this matter better than the Declaration of Representatives of Viet Religions on December 27, 2000, including the Most Ven. Thich Thien Hanh - Chief of the Thua Thien Sangha Monastery, Hue; Mr. Le Quang Liem - President of the Central Hoa Hao Buddhist Church; Rev. Chan Tin - God-Saving-the-World Monastery; and Rev. Nguyen Van Ly - a priest of the Archdiocese of Hue; in which we wrote, close to original, that:
Since April 30, 1975, after occupying South Vietnam, the Vietnamese communists have applied an extremely cruel policy against Viet religions:
- Many Directives and Memoranda have been issued aiming to bind, restrict, take away all religious rights never seen in the history of religion.
- Many schemes, artifices, labellings have been manipulated to put the priests and the believers who have protested against the communist religious oppression and nullification of the churches in jail, house arrest or internment.Others who have lived with their faith such as teaching the religious doctrine, practicing religious songs, or being trained to become priests have also been subject to detention in re-education camps. Those things have cruelly occurred over nearly 50 years (1954-2001).
- Many schemes and manoeuvres have been utilized to interfere with the churches' internal affairs, to rig the churches' ranks off and to politicize the Caodaist, Catholic, Protestant churches. They made Buddhism become two churches: The Buddhist Church of Vietnam and the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam...The most concrete affair was in May 1999, the Vietnamese communists publicly gave birth to a lackey Representatives Committee of Hoa Hao Buddhism which includes11 members of the communist party to lead 5 million Hoa Hao Buddhists..."
- Many establishments, properties of the churches: Caodaist, Catholic, Buddhist, Hoa Hao Buddhist, Protestant... have been confiscated, requisitioned to utilize unlawfully, at the communist discretion.
On the part of the Catholic Church of Vietnam, the Vietnamese communists have controlled and restrained the basic religious activities that the consecutive petitions of the Bishops Council of Vietnam since 1980 until today have unmasked the facts and I have analyzed the matters in my 10-point Statement of November 11, 1994 and my Statement of November 24, 2000 that I have forwarded to you along with this presentation. Hereby we would like to summarize the main points, as follows:
1- The Vietnamese communists have cruelly interfered into the rights of the Bishops Council of Vietnam in the organization of the annual meeting of the Catholic operation activities. To process the meeting, there is a need to get the permission from the communist government and the approval of the contents and agenda of the meeting. After the meeting, there are reports on the meeting. To release some documents or announcements after the meeting, they have to be reviewed and approved by the communist authorities.
2- The communists have cruelly intefered with the selection and conference of Bishops and the selection and ordainment of Reverends. In case the Vatican would like to appoint a Bishop, it has had to discuss with the Vietnamese communists over so many times and many years. The Vietnamese communists usually do not approve the candidates being submitted by the Church and only accept those priests that satisfy the State. After so many years of apostolic vacancies, the Vatican reluctantly accepted the solutions put forward by the Vietnamese communists to avoid the damages caused by the long time of apostolic vacancies. For example, the dioceses of Hung Hoa, Hai Phong, Bui Chu... have been in need of their Bishops since the past 8 years but they have not been appointed.
Any young man who would like to be admitted to the seminary or the church aiming to select somebody to be priest has to get the approval of the provincial police and submit his identifications for the police's reviews. He has to have the attitude of obedience and show no signs of danger for the regime. If he is willing to work for the communists in the seminary, it is even better. If he engage in briberies for the police, his hope is higher. If his family was involved with the Republic of Vietnam or he shows signs of disagreement or straighforwardness to the regime, he cannot be admitted to the seminary or selected as a priest by the church. I can provide the names of those young men who, in 2-3 consecutive years passed as the first place of the admission tests, have still been refused by the communists to join the seminary. Any Bishop who would like to ordain someone as Reverend or would like to appoint a Reverend to assume some tasks has to apply and discuss with the communists for a long time, some cases up to 20 years, yet the cases have still not been resolved. The standards that the communists raised have no relations to the qualities that the church needs to perform the priest's duties. Consequently, the number of Reverends to be ordained every year have substantially declined, not enough to meet the operation needs of the church. The old aged reverends who passed away or the retirees have not been replaced. Many reverends in the far regions have to assume more than 10 parishes at the same time, then they cannot organize the religious life in an usual manner. The priests have difficulty to be transferred or change their locations.
3- The religious believers in the new economic zones or in the far regions who would like to attend a Christmas Greetings or Resurrection Day's Ceremony are also difficult to be satisfied, as the atheistic communists want the people in those regions not to think of religion that they consider dangerous and poisonous.
4- The ceremonies which gather the believers from various places or the priests who would like to celebrate ceremonies outside their parish, all need the permission of the communists.
5- The Vietnamese communists are still detaining many reverends, priests and Catholic followers.
6- The Vietnamese communists cruelly violate the freedom of speech and freedom of the press of the church. The church is not permitted to publish a newspaper, in the local level and central as well. Therefore, the church cannot implement its functions of education and communion in a complete way. Prior to 1975, South Vietnam had many Catholic papers. At the present, there are only two Catholic papers being controlled by the Communist Party. The Bishop Council of Vietnam has a newsletter called "Hiep Thong" (Communion) which was published on the underground basis in the first 6 issues, the three issues 7,8,9 (February to September 2000) were considered allowable. In October 2000, the communists ordered to cease the publishing of that lone newsletter. The freedom of speech is entirely absent on our land. In the church, this right is even non-thinkable. A similar statement like this cannot be disseminated in Vietnam, because no photocopying store dares to copy it; no person dares to keep it without fear of enduring the miseries for him/herself and family. To those who dare to do such a thing, they have to be ready as martyrs.
7- The Vietnamese communists force all pupils and students to learn and love (communist) Socialism while there are almost no ones like this ism. Perhap there are only three million members of the communist party and 5 million members of the communist youth league have to learn communism (if they still believe in it). The people have the right to study and comment on the building of socialism to see whether it is an ideal or an illusion. I am sure that (communist) Socialism is not essential to be applied at any price (for Vietnam) because in the countries of South East Asia, which are quite strange to Socialism or boycott it, they are still much richer than Vietnam. Socialism is also not superior: the evident was that 2.5 million Vietnamese had to flee the country as boat-people, leaving the native land to seek Liberty! Forcing the believers of Viet religions and the people to have to learn and love a bankrupt ism right at its nest which is Russia, along with its miserable failures in Vietnam, is an oppression of thought cruelly.
8- The State has confiscated or forced the transfer of the church's educational, social, and health care establishments - the number reached thousands or tens of thousands - since 1954 in the North and since 1975 for the whole country. The State, until now, still failed to return those things to the church. This makes the church fail to deliver its programs to its trainees, priests, pupils, students, poor people, patients, the handicapped, orphans etc. (typical cases: Papal Institute of St. Pio X, in Dalat, or small seminary Hoan Thien, Hue) Facing the cruel policy aiming to nullify Viet religions, the religious congregations in Vietnam have continually defied against the communists to claim their religious freedom in a peaceful, non violent way, in a courageous but persistent course until the days that the freedom of religion returns to the country, as in most civilized nations in the world today.
1) We request that the State have to absolutely respect genuine freedom of religion, especially in the independence and self-determination of Selection, Training, Appointment of priests and clergies in accordance with the demands and aspirations of each Congregation...
2) The State must return to the churches their establisments, properties which have been conficated, requisitioned or forced to transfer inadequately as taken place over time, though the documents might have been lost in the war, but the people all know clearly who are the owners without doubt.
3) Please terminate all the schemes and manoeuvres to suppress and nullify the religions. Terminate all the State's activities to interfere with the internal affairs of the churches. Terminate all the committees given birth by the State, wearing the labels of religion, but in substance they are the serving instrument of the communist state.
4) Unconditionally free all the priests, clergies, officials, administrators, disciples of the religions who have been tried or have been detained in the detention centres.
(5) The State has to respect the Articles stipulated in the International
Covenants of December 16, 1966 that Vietnam is a signatories (on September
The second matter that you would like me to contribute my ideas to is whether or not the U.S. Congress will go ahead to pass the bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) this Spring? How will this passing affect freedom of religion in Vietnam?
I am only a priest, not specializing in trade and politics. I only stand on the view points of a Vietnamese who loves my country enthusiastically and concerns about the human rights situation for my compatriots. I would like to contribute my simple ideas as follows:
1- Vietnam is deeply in need of the BTA to develop its economy. In principle, I earnestly wish my country to win other nations? trust, among them the U.S., in order that it may soon move to prosperity, my compatriots enjoy a civilized and developed society in all respects.
2- But if the Vietnamese communists continue to maintain a totalitarian dictatorship, do not respect the basic rights of citizens as presented in Part I, then should the U.S. and other countries create more favorable conditions for communist Vietnam to continue its dictatorial rule, it is only a minority group who will benefit from new conditions to prolong their power to the detriment of our miserable people, who get little from the BTA and have to endure their fate under long term oppression.
3- On the signing and endorsement of the treaties/agreements with communist Vietnam, I earnestly call for the U.S. and other nations not to believe in the artificial sincerity of the Vietnamese communists since the U.S. and other nations have had their sour experiences about Vietnam for so many years.
4- On the part of human rights covenants/conventions, on this occasion, I would like to repeat my Appeal #5 dated January 25, 2001, according to which the Vietnamese communists have signed many covenants in human rights, but have never truly observed. They only signed to deceive the international community. If the international human rights bodies easily accept the Vietnamese communists? signing of these covenants/conventions, then the three following disastrous effects will result: First, the signing becomes an evidence for the Vietnamese communists to preach that there exists human rights in Vietnam, which really is not so. Second, the signing makes the prestige of the international bodies concerned reduced, because they prove to be nạve, to be cheated by the Vietnamese communists easily. Third, they are guilty to the people of Vietnam as they support the Vietnamese communists to continue to rule the people of Vietnam under an oppressive regime without a foreseeable time for its termination. For example, Vietnam signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on September 24, 1982; but the Articles 18 and 19 on freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion and expression (of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) have never been observed by the Vietnamese communists.
5- Therefore, if the U.S. and other nations truly love
our miserable People, are truly concerned about human rights, especially
freedom of religion in our country, then the U.S. and other nations should
not support the Vietnamese communists to prolong their totalitarian dictatorship.
On the contrary, the U.S. and others should stop the Agreements that the
Vietnamese communists abuse and find ways to put hard pressures on them
to bring about freedom and democracy for Vietnam.
1. The Vietnamese Communists elevate Ho Chi Minh to a legend and worship him like a "saint", creating a form of quasi religion in personality cult which is misleading and devastating. Accordingly, one of the reasons why the communists want to restrict and destroy the religions and religious values in Vietnam is to elevate that ?saint" to a symbol purporting to represent the unified will of the Vietnamese people. It?s therefore of utmost importance to assess the real worth of Ho Chi Minh alone without adding embellishment and/or excessive slanderings which do not conform to the realities.
As a matter of fact, Ho Chi Minh has:
contributed to regaining independence for Vietnam from French colonialism, but this achievement was not the work of the communists alone. It has actually come about through contributions by a great number of Vietnamese, dedicated people, other political parties which have been destroyed by the communists who then robbed their merits as if the communists alone had been capable to bring about this achievement;
committed the great mistake by introducing communism and socialism to Vietnam, which has moved the nation a century backward in terms of backwardness to become one of the poorest countries in the world today;
committed criminal acts by using every perfidious methods to destroy other patriotic forces fighting for independence for Vietnam under French colonialism;
proceeded Land Reform in the North during the fifties and sixties of the 20th century in the most brutal and macabre manner which killed more than 300,000 innocent Vietnamese;
proceeded the war of invasion against the South from 1960 to 1975 to impose at all costs communism over the entire country, causing the tragic deaths of more than 2 million young people in both the North and the South, while treacherously deceiving the world public that it was a war against the Americans to save the country and to liberate the South; most brutally violent of all was the massacres of hundreds of thousands of civilians during the Tet Offensive at Hue in 1968 in which most of the victims were buried alive or killed in the most cruel and barbaric manner, and the responsibility in the use of howitzers by the communists for mass killings causing deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians during the invasion of Quang Tri in 1972 on the stretch Quang Tri-Dien Sanh, dubbed Stretch of Terror.
brutally suppressed and cruelly killed tens of thousands of opponents throughout the country, especially in hundreds of concentration camps from North to South since 1930 until today.
sowed a mentality which promotes dishonesty, perfidy which destroys the moral values cultivated and preserved generations after generations by the religions in such a degree that in today?s Vietnam, those who do not lie cannot live normally. Even prominent people in Churches? Congregations must know how to lie to get things done. Just by writing something to the authorities, one has to lie by commencing to write the required slogan "Liberty, Happiness", even though everybody is aware that Liberty and Happiness exist nowhere in the country.
sowed a mentality which promotes denunciations and pillorying, hatred, in such a manner that even dissenting Party?s members are not capable to bear the hatred of former comrades!
Thus, one of the most pressing things to do to save the traditional moral values taught by the religions and to restore the virgin conscience of younger generations in Vietnam is for the US and the World Community to define justfully the historical credits and the wrongdoings of Ho Chi Minh and make it public for the World Community to judge. Countless people of good intention but naiv all over the world have unintentionally been duped by this extremely perfidious personality. The World Community should not be bound by artificial diplomatic protocols to tolerate further this serious mistake in the history of mankind.
2. In the first place, the US and other countries should encourage all Churches? Congregations in Vietnam to reorganize and conduct religious activities in the most independent manner, the more the better, through propagating the healthy normal religious daily avtivities in the US and/or in the world community, in order to display the oppressive character of the brutal communist regime vis-à-vis all religions in Vietnam; help Churches? Congregations undertake efforts to reduce as much as possible the imposed control of the communists over activities which are supposedly purely religious of every Congregations. In the beginning, the Congregations will be in conflicht with the monopolized and overwhelming power of the Vietnamese communists, but gradually, the communists themselves will understand that they are abusing the authority of the religions when they claim the right to examine the church authority - an authority claim they do not possess. For instance, the communists insist on their authority to approve the appointments of various functions according to the criteria imposed by the communist Government.
3. There will never be true Freedom of Religion in Vietnam as long as the communist regime still exists. Thus, for the US and other countries, if they really want to help restore true and long-lasting Freedom of Religion for all religions in Vietnam, they have to put (hard) pressures to create conducive conditions to end the communist regime the sooner the better. Ladies and Gentlemen,
Feeling privileged to have this precious opportunity to represent my people, the religions in Vietnam in general and the Catholic Church of Vietnam in particular, to express my thoughts on extremely necessary subjects in this House, the symbol for Liberty and Independence, I wish to thank you all for your presence here, for your attention - the people of America - among them more than our 2 million Vietnamese-Americans, for having kindly invited me to contribute my ideas towards a better world, i.e. the familiy of mankind today, in this very country, known for freedom.
May God bless you and your families, your purposeful contributions and those of the American people and of this great country.
(sealed and signed)
Rev. Thadeus NGUYEN VAN LY