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International Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam
14701 Crenshaw Dr., Centreville, VA 20120
703-988-0362 (Office) or 1-888-999-1305. Fax : 1-866-324-8375
Email: ICRFV@tudotgvn.org or email@example.com
Washington DC, June 8th, 2001
To: The Excellency Monsignor Migliore Celestino and Monsignor Nguyen van Phuong
International Relations Department / Ministry
The Holy State of Vatican.
00120 – Roma – City of Vatican - Italia
We understand that on June 11, you will come to Vietnam as official delegates of the Vatican. In past years, the Vatican has always taken such visits to have discussions with the communist government of Vietnam only on subjects related to the internal affairs of the Catholic Church in Vietnam.
This year, the official delegation will visit Vietnam once more, however under very special circumstances. In the current situation, there have been arrests, jailing, administrative detention of priests and faithful of all religions, who are demanding, by non-violent means, their religious freedom rights, and now there are many religious institutions under siege by the Government police agents.
Only in the last 6 months alone, there have been many actions of oppression by the Government as follows:
- Harassment of the Venerable Thich Quang Do during his trip to Quang Ngai in February 2001 to rescue flood victims.
- Prohibition to the Buddhist League of Clergies of Hue from organizing a Prayer Festival in February, 2001;
- House detention of Mr. Le Quang Liem, President of the Hoa Hao Buddhist Church in March 2001;
- Oppression of Ethnic Montagnard Protestants in the Highlands since the beginning of the year;
- Arrest and deportation of Mr. Lars Rise, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, who visited the religious leaders in Hue and Saigon in April 2001
- Arrest of Father Nguyen Van Ly on May 17, 2001;
- Isolation of Fathers Pham Van Loi, Nguyen Huu Giai and revengeful acts committed on their local faithful parishioners;
- Harassment of Venerable Thich Duc Nhuan, other Buddhist monks; revengeful acts toward his faithful followers, etc;
The most recent and extremely brutal escalation was the administration detention of Venerable Thich Quang Do for two years on May 31, 2001; and much more savage: besieging of hundreds of Buddhist temples in Central Vietnam to prevent the entire Buddhist community from bringing home the aging Most Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, who is under undeclared and unofficial house detention in Quang Ngai; On June 6th, 2001, Mr. Oliver Dupuis, member of the EU Parliament and Secretary-General of the Belgian Transnational Radical Party, came to Thanh Minh Zen Monastery in Saigon to visit the Most Venerable Thich Quang Do. However, he was also arrested and deported. On June 7th, 2001 three Buddhist delegations who had attempted to travel to Quang Ngai to carry out that humanitarian mission but they were finally forced to returned to Hue by countless of uniformed and plain clothed police on the national highway 1 toward Quang Ngai province....
Such actions by the Vietnamese Government have caused tremendous anger to the faithful of all religions in Vietnam and overseas and have shocked all international human rights organizations and freedom-advocating governments throughout the entire world.
We strongly believe that you cannot afford not to pay attention to the very serious and systematic violations of religious freedom and to the wicked intention of the communist Government of Vietnam to create deep division and suspicion among different religions in Vietnam. Under current situation, we suggest that your agenda of discussion with the Vietnamese Government to include not only the issues related to the internal affairs of the Catholic Church but also to the well-being of all religions in Vietnam. Concretely, we would like to ask you to demand the Vietnamese authority:
1- Stop all measures designed to oppress religious freedom under various disguises in Vietnam.
2- Immediately release Father Nguyen Van Ly, Venerable Thich Huyen Quang, Venerable Thich Quang Do, other Buddhist monks, Mr. Le Quang Liem and other leaders of all other religions.
3- Stop all administrative arrest, harassment and threatening actions to all religious clergies and their faithful in Vietnam.
The International Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam sincerely believes that the Vietnamese Catholic Community would not consider your upcoming mission to Vietnam a success if the Catholic Church were given a few "special" concessions while other religions are still being persecuted.
With all respects and humility, we would sincerely request your kind attention and consideration of our view expressed in this letter.
Reverend Nguyen Huu Le