Bush Promotes Religious Freedom During Vietnam Visit

The President of the United States, George W. Bush, worshipped with Vietnamese Protestants and Catholics at the weekend, using the opportunity to promote religious freedom in commumist Vietnam.

|PIC1|President Bush, together with the first lady, Laura Bush joined the Sunday Service at Cua Bac Catholic Church.

"I'm very glad that President Bush was here this morning," said Phung Quang Huyen, pastor of the Hanoi Protestant Church, who participated in the service. "It shows that faith is universal."

Many Protestants from Hanoi Protestant Church also attended the service, filling the church to capacity.

"We were touched by the simplicity and the beauty of the moment. We appreciate very much the congregation for allowing us to come and worship with them," Bush said after the service.

When commenting on the religious rights outside the church, he said, "A whole society is a society which welcomes basic freedoms and there's no more basic freedom than the freedom to worship as you see fit."

"It's our way of expressing our personal faith and, at the same time, urging societies to feel comfortable with, and confident in saying to their people, if you feel like praising God you're allowed to do so in any way you see fit," he said.

The US President's visit to the country comes just days after the removal of Vietnam from the US State Department's list of Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) for severe violations of religious freedom.

The decision pleased the state-supervised religious groups in Vietnam. Khanh, priest from Cua Bac, who said, "Its very good news that the United States took Vietnam off its list."

He added that his church is free from harassment from the governments.

Nevertheless, many critics expressed their disappointment over the move. Christian Solidarity Worldwide's Chief Executive, Mervyn Thomas, said, "We are deeply disappointed that Vietnam has not been re-designated as a Country of Particular Concern. The improvements cited are insufficiently great to justify the removal of Vietnam from the list."

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