|Religious followers attend a service at Plei Mo Nu Church, Chu A commune, Pleiku city. (Photo: Ngoc Anh/VOV5)
Gia Lai province has about 1.6 million people, 25% of them religious followers of Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Cao Dai, or Baha’i.
Of those 5 religions, Protestantism has the most followers and almost all the Protestants belong to ethnic minority groups.
The provincial government has allowed Protestant dignitaries to establish 73 branches. Nguyen Thi Thanh Lich, Deputy Chairwoman of the Gia Lai provincial People's Committee, said, “We’ve strictly followed the Law on Religion and Belief, under which all people have the right to religious freedom.”
“The provincial administration has always supported people’s religious activities held in accordance with the law, and the construction and repair of religious establishments to help locals practice their religion near their place of residence. Much attention has been given to strengthening national unity,” said Lich.
Gia Lai administrators have disseminated Party guidelines and State policies, especially the Law on Belief and Religion, throughout all hamlets and communes inhabited by ethnic minorities.
Local needs have received due attention, said Nguyen Van No, Deputy Head of the provincial Committee for Religious Affairs, adding “Gia Lai province has 279 places which have registered for religious activities under the Law on Religious and Belief. Only 41 places are unregistered, because the followers are too few and practice their religion at home, or do not feel the need to register for religious activities.”
“The provincial government has allocated land and granted construction permits for religious facilities. In Gia Lai province, all religions are equal before the law and the needs of all religions are met equally,” said No.
Each year, religious groups must register their activities with local authorities. The time, location, and content of religious activities around Christmas and other holidays are filed in advance.
Dignitaries have expressed their confidence in the leadership of the Party and State, according to Pastor Blik of Plei Mo Nu Church in Chu A commune.
“Old and young villagers alike practice religion without any problems. The Plei Mo Nu Church has helped villagers build a church and persuaded them to stay away from the Dega, a reactionary group which abuses Protestantism for political reasons. The gospel loves humanity. The Dega only incites rebellion and doesn’t love people. We should live in accordance with the God’s admonition to love each other and not do evil things,” he said.
For local people, religious practice is to satisfy their needs and improve their spiritual life.
“Most villagers are Protestants and go to church twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday. Going to church gives me the peace of mind to pray for relatives and friends, and thank God for giving us a better life. I’ve learned by heart God's teaching to do good deeds,” said Rina, a Jrai person of Plei Mo Nu village in Chu A commune.
|Gia Lai police brief the media of the local human rights situation. (Photo: Ngoc Anh/VOV5)
Administrators meet regularly with heads of religious groups to understand their thoughts and aspirations and prevent abuses of religious freedom to undermine the State.
Ha Bau commune in Dak Doa district used to be a center of illegal religious propagation activities.
Y Hieu, Vice Chairman of the commune, said, “We have learnt the locals’ aspirations, cooperated with functional agencies to support those who want to establish a Protestant branch, and helped them register their religious activities and build a chapel.”
The provincial government’s ensuring freedom of religion has helped religious believers and dignitaries feel secure enough to practice their religion, build great national unity, and contribute to social law and order and economic development.