Gospel Reflections » International

Andrew Dung Lac and the martyrs of Vietnam

November 24, 2012
Vietnam is a small country, with a rich legacy of witnesses to the faith, or martyrs as they are generally known. Most of these were locals, courageous
laymen and women, who held on to their Catholic faith in spite of fierce persecution.

Dung An Tran – or as he is better known, St Andrew Dung Lac - is a representative of the 117 Vietnamese who died in persecutions in the decades between 1820 and 1862. Of these, 96 were local Vietnamese, 59 were laypersons and 37 priests.

Dung An Tran grew up in Ha Noi, but accepted the faith and the new name of Andrew. Like his apostolic namesake, he truly led people to Christ. He laboured many years as a catechist, and then in response to pastoral need, was ordained priest. He was zealous in his ministry and in preaching, and this brought him to the attention of the government. Arrested and imprisoned, released on ransom, and then imprisoned again, he was finally executed by beheading. With him were several others, old and young, men and women.

Why were the Catholics persecuted? The common perception was that Christianity would split the country. It was labeled ta dao, a false, foreign religion. Christian rituals were different, and Christians obeyed God over their local king. All this made them a threat to the government. Since many European missionaries accompanied the local people, it was also feared that western powers would take over the country and upset the balance of power.

No matter what the misconceptions were which sent these Christians to their death, their steadfastness to their faith inspires us still, a century later. Truly, “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Christianity.”

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