Vietnam Bishop Wants Peaceful Solution To Land Dispute

September 17, 2008
BANGKOK (UCAN) — A northern Vietnamese bishop has suggested local authorities remove security officers from a contested parish site in Ha Noi and stop arresting and persecuting local Catholics in order to help resolve the land dispute.

The Church leader also wants the government and, on the other side, Redemptorists and parishioners to resolve the dispute through dialogue and to set up a fund for the support and compensation of detained Catholics.

In his letter dated Sept. 13 to the Redemptorists that administer Thai Ha parish and parishioners, Bishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Sang of Thai Binh said they and government officials “should compose themselves and not fuel the land dispute at the parish.” Thai Ha is in the capital’s Dong Da district.

Bishop Sang suggested government authorities “cut down the number of security officials” at the site and “keep calm” in dealing with local Catholics, who are their compatriots and maybe even relatives. They should stop describing Catholics and people who pray at the site as “enemies, reactionaries, or those who have superstitious practices,” he suggested.

The 77-year-old prelate also suggested they respect favorable opinions about Catholics such as that made of former president Tran Duc Luong, who was quoted as saying social disorder and evils are rare in places where Catholics live. “We Catholics love and live in harmony with all people,” the bishop said.

Bishop Sang, former secretary general of the Vietnam Bishops’ Conference, also suggested that government authorities should stop arresting and prosecuting local Catholics and “if possible, release detainees so that they can return home.”

A message that Thai Ha parish released to all local Catholics on Sept. 11 said that among seven Catholics accused of damaging public property or causing social disturbance, three have been detained, two have gone into hiding and the other two were under house arrest.

Based on such accusations made by the government, thousands of people — bishops, clergy, Religious and laypeople — all broke the law, Bishop Sang pointed out. On Sept. 4, he became the first bishop to visit and pray at the disputed site.

Since damage the seven Catholics allegedly caused to the wall around the controversial plot of land was estimated at only 3.7 million dong (US$231), he noted it would cost the government more money to conduct a court hearing.

The prelate also called for local media to give accurate reports reflecting developments at the site, and to create conditions for the two sides to engage in dialogue. They should not use their reports to reprimand and defame one side, he wrote.

The elderly Church leader said meetings should be arranged soon at which the local Redemptorists and parishioners would present legal papers confirming their ownership of the land. A mediation committee including respected lawyers as well as Church and government officials should be formed to oversee the meetings and go over the legal papers, he added.

The bishop further suggested a fund should be established to help the detainees and their relatives. He said he sent 5 million dong as his donation toward such a fund to Redemptorist Father Matthew Vu Khoi Phung, pastor of the parish.

The land dispute is “so small” and should not require much time and energy to resolve, according to the bishop. “We should save money and time to develop the country and resolve bigger national issues of improving education quality, fighting against corruption and resolving territory disputes with neighboring countries,” he stated.

Bishop Sang said he was happy that Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Ha Noi and Auxiliary Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van De of Bui Chu visited and met local Catholics and prayed at the site on Sept 12. He called this “a good sign.”

A Church source told UCA News that Nguyen Duc Nhanh and Vu Cong Long, who head the Ha Noi city police station and Dong Da district police station, respectively, visited the site on September 14.
INDIAN CATHOLIC – Vietnam Bishop Wants Peaceful Solution To Land Dispute – BANGKOK (UCAN) — A northern Vietnamese bishop has suggested local authorities remove security officers from a contested parish site in Ha Noi and stop arresting and persecuting local Catholics in order to help resolve the land dispute.

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