Vietnam recognizes its Baha'is as a religious community

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam - The government of Vietnam has given full recognition to the Bahá'í community as a religious organization.

A certificate was presented to representatives of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Vietnam at a ceremony on 25 July 2008.

It was the final act in a series of steps that included the election in March 2008 of the Bahá'í Assembly - itself a landmark event in that it was the first time in many years that elections for the governing council were held. Government representatives were on hand to observe the balloting.

The head of the central government's Committee for Religious Affairs, Nguyen The Doanh, officiated at last week's ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City.

The official government news agency reported the event and referred to comments by the chairman of the Bahá'í National Spiritual Assembly, Mr. Nguyen Thuc: "[He] said the Government's recognition of the Bahá'í religion 'charts a new course of development for the entire Bahá'í community' and motivates followers to make more contributions to social and humanitarian activities and to drive to preserve traditional spiritual values."

The Bahá'í Faith was established in the country in 1954, and the first National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Vietnam was elected 10 years later. In the mid-1970s, formal activities of the community were suspended.

The Vietnam News Agency said the July ceremony means that "the Government's Committee for Religious Affairs has recognized the Bahá'í Community of Vietnam as a religious organization able to operate on an equal footing with other religions."

The Bahá'ís of Vietnam are now working on consolidating their community and expanding social projects to serve the people of Vietnam, particularly in the area of education.