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Will Faith Defeat Communism in Vietnam?
Thomas Alton

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NORTH CAROLINA—After the end of World War II, the defeated Japanese forces withdrew from Southeast Asia, creating a vacuum of power in Vietnam. Communist Leader Ho Chi Minh’s Revolutionary Communist League in North Vietnam, called the Viet Minh , was at the time very weak. He quickly declared Vietnam a Socialist Republic while allowing the French to return to re-establish their colonial rule in the South. As a result of Ho Chi Minh’s reconciliation with the French, Vietnam had to fight a Liberation War, with the Viet Minh and all Patriotic Nationalists fighting on one side against the French. The long and bloody war ended in 1954 with the Geneva Agreement dividing Vietnam into two parts separated by the 17th parallel: Ho Chi Minh’s Communist Regime in the North and the Non Communist Regime led by Ngo Dinh Diem in the South.

Before Ngo Dinh Diem took power in South Vietnam, the old French colony was in a state of anarchy with many local insurgent forces created by the French, the Nationalist movements, and the Communist guerilla agents that already infiltrated inside South Vietnam via the Ho Chi Minh trail as well as with the flow of refugees leaving North Vietnam to resettle in South Vietnam.

That situation was ripe for the North to conquer the South. With the strong support of the two big Communist Powers, the Soviet Union and China, North Vietnam over 20 years time (1956-1975) waged the bloodiest and the most brutal war in Vietnam’s history, using all means and tactics, including beheading village chiefs, murdering civilians and government officials, and creating a permanent state of terror.

However, North Vietnam had to confront the strong resistance of the South Vietnamese people who were united under the anti-communist leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. The South Vietnamese people believed in Diem’s strong leadership that was nurtured by his anti-communist ideology, based on “Truth and Compassion” (see Ngo Dinh Diem’s July 7, 1961 message to the Vietnamese people, republished as “Foundation for a Modern Vietnam,” the Viet Tide newspaper, October 29, 2004). Therefore, it took 20 years for the Communists to conquer South Vietnam. However, they could not conquer the heart of the people of South Vietnam. The truth is that these freedom-loving people don’t believe in Communism, an imported Soviet Marxist-Leninist product which is based on some outdated revolutionary theories used by the Party to seize power and rule the country by threats and terror.

Conquest Followed by Terror

When the North conquered the South in 1975, a reign of terror followed quickly. Hanoi conducted widespread executions to take revenge against Saigon’s defeated government and armed forces and to secure its totalitarian rule. What was left behind the iron curtain was only poverty and misery. Ironically, the peace that the Communists claimed was but the peace of the grave!

Here is how the former US President Richard Nixon described the situation: “Now there are no political, religious, economic, or press freedoms. There are no free elections. There is ruthless repression of religion. More Buddhist monks have committed suicide through self-immolation under the Communists than Diem and his successors combined. Southern Vietnam has become an economic disaster area.” {No More Vietnams, Richard Nixon, page 205-206}.

Many reports about Vietnam’s violations of Human Rights have caused the U.S. State Department to name it a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).

The “Declaration of Vietnamese Priests Abroad,” signed by 144 priests on the Fifteenth of August, 2001 condemns Vietnam for Religious Repression:

It is unfortunate for the Vietnamese people that what is happening in our country increasingly proves that religion is at risk of being used as an instrument by the Vietnamese Communist Government and enslaved by it to the point of dying away in the end. Using this as its strategy involves agonizing policies of the legal system (especially the procedure of begging for government permission and policies of discrimination), an unreasonable administrative system, "divide and conquer" causing division among leaders of the same religion, etc. All of these aim to deprive religious belief of sacred values and to render it meaningless and finally useless. Religious freedom in Vietnam is being distorted and trampled brutally and shamelessly by the Vietnamese Communist Government. The present conditions of society are unstable and only conducive to bribery and power abuse at all levels. In the face of these great social problems, religious organizations do not have a right to truly speak out. If they say anything, they must espouse the policies of the government.

The International Committee for Religious Freedom in Vietnam has also urged the World and all the Congregations of all faiths—Buddhist, Catholic, Cao-Dai, Hoa-Hao, Protestant—to take action against the continual harassment, intimidation, and persecution of religions in Vietnam.

In addition, many International Organizations, NGO (Non-Government Organization), The United States, etc…have raised concerns about Vietnam’s human rights violations.

Religious Persecution

Following are some examples of Vietnam’s relentless repression of religions and brutal persecution of people of faith.

Protestant Montagnards (highlanders) were forcibly moved from their homes and their churches were destroyed. The bloody crackdown on a peaceful demonstration of Montagnards around Easter 2000 highlights the severity of the situation in that communist country. Thousands of Montagnards converged on several locations in the Central Highlands of Vietnam to demand religious freedom and protection against the government’s confiscation of their ancestral land. The government sent the police and troops to the area and used force to suppress the Montagnards’ peaceful exercise of their basic human and civil rights. Scores of protesters were reportedly injured and hospitalized. The government has blocked access to this region. Vietnam’s violations of religious freedom have clearly exceeded the threshold for CPC designation.

Other groups of religions, including Catholics, Buddhists, and Protestants, also are victims of violations. Over four hundred Christian Churches have been closed, and many have been burnt down. The entire leadership of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam is presently under “temple arrest.” Their top leaders are being held incommunicado under round-the-clock surveillance by the police. A prominent and outspoken Catholic priest has been incarcerated in isolation and held incommunicado for two years. He was harshly sentenced to 15 years for his peaceful demand for religious freedom and the return of confiscated Church properties. Catholic priests and laypersons supporting him have been placed under house arrest. The government of Vietnam abducted a Buddhist monk from Cambodia, where he had been granted refugee status by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Other Buddhist Sects, Hoa Hao and Cao Dai, have also suffered a lot from the persecution of the Communists. Hoa Hao pilgrims on their way to their Holy Land to commemorate the 81st anniversary of the death of their leader, murdered on Ho Chí Minh’s orders, were brutally stopped by local security forces. Many were beaten and arrested. Several Hoa Hao threatened a hunger strike and self-immolation. In the Cao Dai Mecca of Tay Ninh, the Vietnamese Communist Party enthroned 1,400 dignitaries of its own choosing, although the Cao Dai rite prescribes the appointment of its high officials by means of the Turning Table. The official Cao Dai Church was replaced by a Leadership Committee picked by the Party.

Falun Gong, a peaceful movement of cultivation based on Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance, was labeled as an “evil cult” and the practice was prohibited. The Government monitors and controls all Falun Gong websites, making it difficult for this movement to grow.

The Communists Try New Tactics

Having failed to nationalize religion, Hanoi is encouraging the establishment of several Zen Centers in Vietnam and abroad. Its covert aim is to distract the Vietnamese from their struggle for democracy and freedom. Zen Buddhism is an important Buddhist school that originated in China and was introduced to Japan in the 7th Century. While restricting the activities of the traditional churches to the maximum, the Vietnamese government bestows a large number of privileges on the head of the Vietnamese Zen Buddhism movement. The monumental temples are built everywhere The Politburo has found in the leader of Zen Buddhism in Vietnam and in his temple the perfect supporters of their underhanded policy for national reconciliation. His church is there to counterbalance the influence of the religious groups hostile to the government. The tactics are really manifestations of the evil nature of Communism to deceive people.

The Vietnamese Communist Party (VCP) is also trying other tactics to attract young Vietnamese overseas and to distract them from supporting the struggle for democracy and freedom inside Vietnam. Actually, this is an attempt to extend VCP’s Policy of Propaganda aiming at the Vietnamese overseas for the purpose of dividing and disrupting their nationalistic unity. According to reliable sources, VCP had adopted a resolution urging major tasks for implementing the Party’s Foreign Policy focusing on the Vietnamese youth overseas. It is too early to know the outcome, but there are many signs of strong resistance from many anti-communist organizations in the US against the recent Vietnamese government officials’ visit to Little Saigon in California.

Crusade for Non-Violence

There is no doubt that Vietnam is facing an urgent appeal for action against religious repression. The confrontation between the Communist government and several religions has lead to a worsening of the repression.

However, in the more than three decades since they conquered South Vietnam, the communists have not been able to destroy the unshakable faith of the people. Evidently, the faith of the people in “Truth and Compassion” will prevail, not the dictatorship’s ideology of terror. The communists will then have to decide between following the people’s righteous path or taking the evil path of the Party, which is just a descendant of Marx and Lenin. Judging from the current situation, the Party seems to have no choice but to side with the people, as the communists did in the Soviet Union and other Marxist countries.

Will the struggle of the Vietnamese soul and the preservation of Vietnamese identity become a crusade, a crusade for non-violence?

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