Sometimes we are reminded of how tenuous a thread religious liberty hangs by in many parts of the world. Over the past years we have seen many stories that speak of the opening up to the west that has occurred in Vietnam. The government in the central highlands of Vietnam decided to remind us just how far they still have to go. CWN reports:

Hanoi, Feb. 12, 2008 ( – Catholics in a district in central highlands of Vietnam, were barred from celebrating Mass on the first day of the Lunar New Year, commonly known as Tet, after a local government official threatened legal action against anyone who participated in the Eucharistic liturgy.

Bui Minh Son, the chairman of the People’s Committee of the Ia Grai distict, announced that because Tet is not a Catholic holy day, parishioners would need to have government approval for any public celebration. He ordered police to arrest any Catholics organizing religious ceremonies for the day.

I am quite sure that this little incident will not cause any diplomatic rumbling as Vietnam’s economy is one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. I would be pleased to be wrong but I suspect that we value access to a cheap manufacturing base much more than religious liberty. I find the lack of religious freedom in Vietnam and our probable collective yawn over the issue to be a Tet offensive.

Another reminder that the more things change in Vietnam, the more they stay the same – Former Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp officials Tuesday denied claims made by Senator John McCain, and supported by US government research, that Cuban interrogators tortured American POWs in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. Vietnamese officials still routinely deny American POW claims that they were tortured or mistreated ignoring all evidence to the contrary. On the upside, they make inexpensive clothes and electronic devices. Everything is a trade-off, right?