Washington, D.C. — Kristina Arriaga, Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), today expressed serious concern about the situation of Patriarch Thích Quảng Độ, the leader of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV), for whom she advocates as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.
Throughout 2017, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has promoted its 50th year of existence, marked on August 8. The regional bloc comprising 10 countries has grown and integrated in ways hardly dreamed of five decades ago. But to this day, ASEAN lacks cohesion on human rights issues and, in particular, has a flawed record protecting freedom of religion or belief, both as a collective regional bloc and as individual Member States. The good news is that ASEAN possesses both the raw materials and the incentive to turn its record around.
"Pastor and Mrs. Hong, I honor you for your resiliency under the cruel conditions under which you lived and being forced to leave your country. You inspire all of us to advocate for those who are imprisoned for their religious beliefs, activities, and advocacy."
The report documents ASEAN’s and the Member States’ approaches to the freedom of religion or belief, underscores the religious freedom-related challenges in the region that transcend country borders, and emphasizes the strategic importance of robust U.S. engagement on these issues with ASEAN as a collective and the 10 individual Member States.
USCIRF expressed relief that the Vietnamese government has released religious prisoner of conscience Pastor Nguyen Cong Chinh and allowed him, his wife Tran Thi Hong, and their five children to leave the country. Pastor Chinh was sentenced in 2012 to
"Dear Pastor Chinh and Mrs. Hong: I write to you as a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and a person of faith who is deeply concerned about your well-being."