Catholics who had been attacked while gathering to pray at their homes in northern Vietnam have asked church leaders to work with higher level government authorities to end acts of religious persecution. A seven-member delegation led by Father Peter Le Quoc Hung, head of Hung Hoa Diocese’s Office based in Hanoi, on Aug. 10 paid a working visit to the Catholic community in Muong Khuong district of the mountainous province of Lao Cai. Church sources said local Catholics expressed their deep concern over local authorities and police who have brutally attacked and dispersed them while they were praying at the home of Tran Thi Tram, a Catholic woman. Authorities broke into the house, beat the owners, shouted at attendees and used loudspeakers to order the congregation to disperse. These violent assaults on Catholics took place three times at Tram’s home on May 28, June 12 and 19. Catholics said local authorities also threatened to cause problems to their jobs and livelihoods. Sources said Catholics asked diocese leaders to "take concrete steps and soon work with provincial and central government officials about violations of human rights and religious freedom made by local authorities." Father Hung told the congregation that he would present their concerns and suggestions to bishops of the diocese and manage to deal with the crisis. Representatives from the Catholic community in Muong Khuong work with the delegation from Hung Hoa Diocese on Aug. 10. (Photo courtesy of laocaichurch.org) Delegation cars get spiked
A source said two cars carrying the delegation had their tires purposefully flattened when they arrived in the district. "Two masked men riding a motorbike past the cars put iron spikes wrapped in plastic bags on the road which made two tires flat," said the source. The source said the perpetrators are believed to be employed by local authorities to threaten church officials.
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Early July, Auxiliary Bishop Alfonse Nguyen Huu Long of Hung Hoa also visited and consoled Tram and her family. The diocese has petitioned the district government, requesting an explanation about the assaults on local Catholics but have not received a response. The local government have accused local Catholics of illegally gathering for prayers. Catholics said they have petitioned the local government to allow them to build a chapel many times but have been refused. To practice their faith they gather at private homes to conduct Mass services and pray.