In Ho Chi Minh City calls for justice and prayer for those who “persecute us”

7000 Vietnamese Catholics Gather for Prayer and Solidarity
By Ngo Quang Kiet

Asia News

7,000 people took part in a prayer vigil during which participants express communion with Hanoi Catholics, victims of a vicious attack by city authorities and the Communist Party.

HO CHI MINH CITY (AsiaNews) – 7,000 Catholics held a vigil in Ho Chi Minh City during which they prayed for those who “persecute us”, urging people to leave the “house of violation,” expressing their communion with the archbishop of Hanoi and the priests of Thai Ha, increasingly targeted by more vicious attacks by Hanoi City authorities and the Communist Party.This is the largest demonstration ever seen since the Communists took over the city in 1975.

The vigil is taking place around our Mother of Perpetual Help Church. Many of the people who have come are young; they are here despite a memo sent by Nguyen Van Ngai, deputy director of the city’s Education Department, asking schools to “prevent bad elements among the students from participating in anti-government demonstrations.” Dated 24 September, the note urges official to pay close attention to the period that goes from 24 to 28 September.
This has raised concerns because the dates correspond to the time frame of a rumoured “drastic action” the authorities are said to be preparing against Catholics in Hanoi. In fact even the Bishops’ Council of Vietnam is ripe with such fears.

The vigil began at 7 pm but the area was already full by 6. Father Dominique celebrated Mass, urging “Vietnamese Catholics to leave the house of violation for the house of peace.” Catholics, he said, must “rid themselves of pressure, anger and hostility in order to love and pray for those who persecute us because they too are our brothers and sisters.We live in Jesus,” he added.In this context priests, men and women religious and the lay people prayed for Mgr Ngo Quang Kiet, archbishop of Hanoi; Fr Vu Khoi Phung, parish priest at Thai Ha; the Redemptorists and the clergy and laity living in the parish. They prayed for justice, peace and truth in Vietnam.

Sadly, the Vietnamese government and media have not understood what Catholics want.Like their fellow citizens Catholics want to see Vietnam develop its economy, culture, society and political stability.Instead in the last few days state-owned newspapers and TV stations have misinformed the public with regards to the “prayers for peace and justice offer by lay members of Thai Ha parish.”
The government is under the impression that the former are trying to challenge local authorities. City officials unleashed a mob of a hundred thugs who threatened people who came to their church to pray, shouted obscenities at men and women religious, spit in the face of one in particular, ransacked the church and shouted well into the night that they wanted to kill Father Phung and the archbishop.

In fact all that Catholics want is justice and peace from the nation’s leaders.During the vigil the statement issued by the archbishop of Hanoi was read out fully, unlike the distorted version reprinted in the print media.
Card Jean-Baptiste Pham Minh Man, archbishop of the country’s largest city that was once known as Saigon, gave instructions for his colleague’s letter to be read out during Sunday Mass.People want the government to put an end to the press campaign against Catholic priests, faithful and Church; instead they want the authorities to respect their own laws and let the properties in dispute go back to their rightful owners.

Contribution by J. B. An Dang

Source: Asia News


Floods kill 8, leave 5 missing in northern Vietnam

The Associated Press
Friday, September 26, 2008

HANOI, Vietnam: Floods triggered by Typhoon Hagupit have killed at least eight people in northern Vietnam and left five others missing and feared dead, officials said Friday.

In Lang Son province, three people were swept away and killed Thursday night, provincial disaster official Bui Thanh said.

“Floods have isolated many areas,” Thanh said. “We have had to mobilize hundreds of rescue workers to help.”

In Son La and Bac Giang provinces, a total of five people drowned and five were missing, officials said.

The weather forecast called for continued heavy rain Friday, and rivers in northern Vietnam were expected to rise.

“The death toll is expected to increase as there are many parts of the province that have not been reached,” disaster official Vu Ngoc Tuong of Son La said, adding that floods have cut telecommunication cables to some areas.

Authorities rushed food and medicine to people in affected areas.

Typhoon Hagupit swept into southern China’s Guangdong province Wednesday, killing 10 people and forcing the evacuation of more than 28,000 before weakening into a tropical storm, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The storm moved into northern Vietnam on Thursday, unleashing heavy rains. Thousands of Vietnamese have been relocated to higher ground.

Source: International Herald Tribune

Vietnam To Build Another Park On Land Claimed By Catholics

9-25-08 5:10 AM EDT

HANOI (AFP)–Communist Vietnam has stepped up the pressure in a long-simmering land dispute with the country’s Catholics by authorizing the construction of public parks on two key sites claimed by the Church.

Catholics have for months staged prayer vigils in the capital Hanoi, calling for the return of land they say was taken from them after the communists took power from the French in North Vietnam in 1954.

Vietnamese officials counter that the Church donated the land to the state more than half a century ago, a claim the Catholics have denied.

Last week, authorities stepped up their campaign by starting construction of a public park on the site of the former Vatican embassy in the heart of Hanoi’s old town, an area popular with foreign tourists.

Municipal authorities said Tuesday they would convert a second site claimed by the Catholics in Hanoi’s Dong Da district, site of tense protests in recent weeks, into a park, the communist newspaper Nhan Dan reported.

“We’ve told them we’ve launched a legal complaint to resolve this. There is no justification for building this park,” priest Vu Khoi Phung said.

Vietnam, a unified communist country since the war ended in 1975, has Southeast Asia’s largest Catholic community after the Philippines – at least six million out of a population of 86 million.

All religion remains under state control, but Hanoi’s relations with the Catholic church had improved in recent years, leading to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung making a landmark visit to the Vatican in 2007.

But now, those relations are in jeopardy – priests allege physical abuse by security forces and ordinary citizens during their peaceful protests, and authorities have hit out at the Archbishop of Hanoi through the state press.

Father Nguyen Van Khai said police struck demonstrators with batons at a peaceful protest in August. Authorities have denied those claims.

On Sunday, protesters said bystanders berated them and spat on them – but police did nothing to stop the abuse.

“Since Sunday, there have been tales of violence every night,” Khai said.

Meanwhile, the state press has taken aim at Hanoi Archbishop Ngo Quang Kiet, with the security forces daily An Ninh Thu Do accusing him of “undermining national unity” and “humiliating” authorities.

State media reported he received a warning from the government not to ” organize illegal religious activities.” The priests of Dong Da district also received an official warning to toe the government line.

The archbishop, asked about the state of relations between Vietnam and the Church, said the improvements were purely “on the surface.”

“There have only been a few improvements that the government can’t prevent, like on the issue of ordination” of priests, he said.

In a sign of the tensions sparked by the long-simmering row over church land, a U.S. journalist for the Associated Press, or AP, was detained as he covered last Friday’s start of construction at the former Vatican embassy site.

Dozens of priests, nuns and seminary students had turned out to pray in silent protest as work began.

The AP has accused Vietnamese police of beating Ben Stocking, the agency’s Hanoi bureau chief, saying police took his camera and, when he asked for it back, hit him on the head with it and punched him.

Vietnam has denied the allegations and accused Stocking of breaking the law by taking photographs in an off-limits zone.

Vietnam To Build Another Park On Land Claimed By Catholics