- The Iona Institute - http://www.ionainstitute.ie -

Irish Government happy to promote gay rights abroad but not religious freedom

A delegation from the Irish State’s foreign aid organisation, Irish Aid, is currently in Vietnam promoting gay rights. Interestingly, Irish Aid seems to have nothing to say about the suppression of religious freedom in the Communist dictatorship, never mind other crucial freedoms. Why?

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam controls all aspects of the lives of its citizens, including religion. Government oversight and repression of religious activity, and persecution is very common. Last year, for example, 108 protestant pastors were imprisoned [1].  Vietnam’s most famous religious leader, Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuán was arrested in 1975 and spent 13 years in prison – including nine years in solitary confinement.

Vietnam’s appalling record on human rights includes no right to life for the unborn.  Vietnam ranks first in Asia for abortions, and among the top five in the world. Every year one million abortions are carried out, corresponding to a rate of 59 cases to 100 live births [2].

According to its website the purpose of Irish Aid fight global poverty and hunger. It also promotes “equality and respect for human rights”. As an article on its website [3]explaining its visit to Vietnam promoting gay rights says:Equality and respect for human rights are key values of Ireland both at home and abroad, and remain at the heart of the work of Irish Aid and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Vietnam is one of Ireland’s key partner countries receiving support through the Irish Aid programme. As part of Irish Aid’s Civil Society support programme, Ireland has been supporting a number of initiatives to facilitate the realisation of rights of the LGBTI community in Vietnam.”

The question arises: if Irish Aid sees fit to promote LGBT rights in Vietnam, why not the rights of religious believers there? Why is Irish Aid being so selective? Are human rights divisible?

Another question arises: why is it that a single-party, authoritarian State like Vietnam finds it less threatening to promote gay rights than freedom of religion? It permitted gay marriage in 2015. The Vietnamese Government knows this will make it appear ‘modern’ and ‘tolerant’ to the Western world. It is part of the official propaganda and Irish Aid certainly seems to be taken in by this.

LGBT rights don’t challenge the hegemony of the State whereas religion does by pointing to a source of moral authority independent of the State. The Vietnamese Government will be well aware of the role religion played in helping to bring about the fall of European communism. Indeed, the Catholic Church also helped to bring down military dictatorships in South Korea and the Philippines.

Little happens in Vietnam that is not approved and controlled by its dictatorial State. It is very wrong of Irish Government agencies to go along with the agenda of the Vietnamese regime in promoting what suits it while continuing to suppress fundamental human rights.