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Benedictines resist unwelcome temple construction in Vietnam

Superior at Thien An Monastery demands local government withdraw what he says are builder’s false ownership papers

ucanews.com reporter, Hue City

ucanews.com reporter, Hue City

Published: November 08, 2018 03:37 AM GMT
Benedictines resist unwelcome temple construction in Vietnam

Benedictines stage a Nov. 2 protest against the uninvited construction of a temple on their land. (Photo supplied)

A group of Benedictines are fighting the construction of a temple being built on their land without permission in central Vietnam.

Hue resident Nguyen Dang Tuan is building an ancestor temple on property belonging to Thien An Monastery but has said he has papers proving ownership of the land just outside Hue City.

The monastery's superior Father Louis Gonzaga Dang Hung Tan has demanded that the local government withdraw what he says are Tuan's false ownership papers. Father Tan has likewise requested the government ask Tuan to stop building on the monastery land, which has been owned by Benedictines since 1940.

Father Tan also called on the government to investigate the issue and punish those officials who he said illegally granted the monastery's land to others.

He said that local government officials granted ownership papers of the plot in 2011 to Le Huu Nghi, who sold it to Tuan in 2018.

Local sources told ucanews.com that Tuan has had 10 workers at the 479-square-meter construction site on a regular basis since building began in July.

Since then the workers have built a walled fence around the site, a 150-square-meter temple, a hall house with 200 square meters, and a garage. The source said that the construction has cost one billion dong (US$43,100).

The source added that at least a dozen pine trees aged 50 years have been cut down for construction purposes.

Benedictine Brother John Nguyen Minh Sang said that before Tuan started construction, Benedictines had told him not to build on their land. "But he said he would only erect a temporary store keeping building materials," said Brother Sang.

Tuan told a lie to the monastery, he said.

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Brother Sang said Thua Thien Hue provincial officials in charge of religious affairs met the monastery on Nov. 2 in a bid to resolve the issue. The brother said the officials admitted that Tuan has made some mistakes in building and they said the government would work with the them to resolve the incident.

Brother Sang said that some 60 Benedictines from the monastery marched 500 meters from their chapel to the offending construction site where they said prayers and raised protest banners on Nov. 1 and 2.

"We protest against government officials and agencies who allowed the owner to build a temple on our land of 107 hectares," he told ucanews.com.

Brother Sang said workers continue to work on the site and now plainclothes police are hanging out at a coffee house in front of the monastery's gate watching and videoing those who enter and leave the monastery.

Since 1975, the communist government has reportedly "borrowed" 57 hectares of land from the monastery and assigned it to a forestry company.

In 2000, the government confiscated the rest of the land and assigned it to a tourism company but allowed the Benedictines to retain six hectares of land including the monastery.

Further compounding the situation, local authorities had previously confiscated land from the Benedictines and awarded it to other officials who in turn sold the land to other parties to build houses.

Over the most recent incident, Father Tan has filed a petition to provincial agencies and the Australian, Canadian, German and U.S. embassies.

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