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Anger after officials ban house blessing

Diocese says authorities violated people's right to religious freedom

Tra Van Luong says he was beaten by the village head's sons (Photo: www.giaophanvinh.org) Tra Van Luong says he was beaten by the village head's sons (Photo: www.giaophanvinh.org)
  • by ucanews.com reporter, Vinh City
  • Vietnam
  • June 19, 2012
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A diocesan official in Nghe An province has condemned local authorities for their part in what he says was the violent suppression of Catholics attending a service at a layperson’s home last week.

Several Catholics were injured during violent scenes in Chau Binh commune on June 11 after Quy Chau district officials and other villagers prevented priests from performing a blessing on a new house.

“The officials are responsible for violating religious freedom, injuring local Catholics and creating divisions in the local community. We strongly condemn their illegal actions,” said Father Peter Nguyen Van Huong, head of the Vinh Bishop’s House office.

In a June 16 open letter to officials of Nghe An province, Quy Chau district and Chau Binh commune, Father Huong demanded authorities deal with those responsible for the incident and to compensate those who were injured or had property damaged.

He said the trouble began when the officials and villagers burst in the house of Nguyen Van Vi, who had invited several priests and local Catholics to bless the new home he had built, and desecrated the altar.

The priests took off their vestments and asked the officials for a written statement about the incident but they refused. The priests then dismissed the gathering and left the house.

Soon after, three of the village head’s sons beat up five local Catholics, putting them in hospital, said Fr Huong, adding that local security officials had witnessed the beating but did not do anything to stop it.

He said there are 35 Catholic families in Chau Binh commune.

Since 1999, they have petitioned the government many times to allow them to establish a sub-parish in the commune and build a church to meet their increasing religious needs but have been denied each time.

They regularly gather and pray in homes, where priests from other parishes sometimes visit.

Father Huong called on the government to protect people’s religious freedom and to help reconcile Catholics with other community members.

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