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End religious violence in Nghe An: groups

Vietnamese Catholic groups urge government to end persecution of people of all faiths

  • Alessandro Speciale, Vatican City
  • Vatican City
  • July 12, 2012
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An international network of Vietnamese Catholic media is trying to raise awareness on recent violent episodes in Nghe An province, in Vinh diocese.

The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media published an appeal last week to “sternly condemn and denounce before the international community the persecutions against our fellow Catholic priests and faithful at Con Cuong missionary post.”

Ucanews.com reported on July 3 that a chapel in Nghe An province has been the target in recent weeks of repeated attacks and intimidation, while the local priest, Father John Baptist Nguyen Dinh Thuc, was barred access to it and beaten by security officials.

The Federation's appeal was signed by Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Nguyen Van Long of Melbourne, Australia, by Monsignor Peter Nguyen Van Tai, director of Radio Veritas Asia, as well as by the director of the US-based VietCatholic News Agency and the editors of the People of God magazines that serve Vietnamese-Catholic communities in the US, Europe and Australia.

The appeal calls on the Vietnamese government to “stop immediately its brutal acts of repression against Catholic priests and faithful” and to end its “repression against the Catholic Church and other religions in Vietnam.”

It also asked Vietnam to respect its own laws and “return all properties it has appropriated from the Catholic Church and other religions in Vietnam.”

The appeal has received no official response.

The Bishop of Vinh, Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, who is currently in Europe on a fund-raising tour, wrote a letter to Catholics in his diocese on July 4 to reassure them in the face of “a situation that shouldn't exist in the 21st century.”

After visiting Rome and Paris, Bishop Thai Hop, who is also head of Vietnam's bishops conference’s Justice and Peace Commission, will be this weekend in Stuttgart, Germany, to visit the local Vietnamese community.

According to an interview given by the bishop to Eglises d'Asie, a news agency of the Paris Foreign Missions Society, a revival of religious feeling is currently in progress in Vinh diocese. As is often the case in rural areas, local authorities in the district of Con Cuong do not take kindly to this awakening and try to discourage it in every way, he said.

This is particularly a consequence of the “heroic” status of Nghe An province as the home of national hero Ho Chi Minh, which means that it is a hotspot of Communist activity. In order to preserve this status, local officials have had to discourage religious activity in the district, according to the bishop.

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