Emeritus Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh (in black), Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh (in white) and local people gather amidst the remains of destroyed houses to pray before a Marian statue on Jan. 6. (Photo courtesy of Father Le Ngoc Thanh)
A retired bishop and priests in Vietnam have called on people evicted from their farms to join wider efforts to build a more just society. On Jan. 4, hundreds of police and officials destroyed farmers' houses on five hectares of land in Tan Binh district in southern Vietnam. About a dozen people were detained after roads leading to the scene were blocked. One man reportedly tried to prevent authorities from demolishing his home by lying on the ground in front of a bulldozer. Many locals gathered to pray before a Marian statue nearby and some priests visited victims of the raid.
Authorities accused people who have cultivated crops there for 65 years of illegally building houses on land needed for the building of schools and other public facilities. The government announced early in January that they would demolish 84 houses. On Jan. 6, Emeritus Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh
of Kontum and Redemptorist Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh
visited and consoled victims who are members of Loc Hung parish. Victims told them about the brutal eviction. "May God bless you," Bishop Oanh told them. "You are struggling not just for the land but for justice
and truth to be respected in our country." He also urged them to "act like God's children." Bishop Oanh, who is known for speaking out against the government's violations of religious freedom and human rights, led the congregation to sing hymns and pray in front of the Marian statue. And he offered worshippers a bag of candy. Father Thanh said local people are looking for the truth and justice like the 'three wise men from the east' coming to honor the infant Jesus. Father Thanh said he had been stopped by security officials and then taken back to his monastery when he tried to visit victims after the destruction of Jan. 4. Local people said they strongly protested the government's eviction from their land where they had grown vegetables for a living since 1954 when the local church offered them land after they moved from northern Vietnam. They said they used the land without conflict with anyone and the government had never previously stated that the land belongs to it. In 2001, government officials verbally informed them that they decided to take away the land from them. They said they petitioned the government to grant them ownership, but were ignored. In recent years they had not been able to cultivate the land because it was inundated by heavy rains. They instead built temporary houses in order to earn a living by renting them out. "We continue gathering to pray for Mother Mary to protect us and our properties," a woman said. "We will be ready to die on our land because we have shed tears and blood on the land for generations."
Support UCA News...
As 2020 unfolds, we are asking readers like you to help us keep Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) free so it can be accessed from anywhere in the world at no cost.
That has been our policy for years and was made possible by donations from European Catholic funding agencies. However, like the Church in Europe, these agencies are in decline and the immediate and urgent claims on their funds for humanitarian emergencies in Africa and parts of Asia mean there is much less to distribute than there was even a decade ago.
Forty years ago, when UCA News was founded, Asia was a very different place - many poor and underdeveloped countries with large populations to feed, political instability and economies too often poised on the edge of collapse. Today, Asia is the economic engine room of the world and funding agencies quite rightly look to UCA News to do more to fund itself.
UCA News has a unique product developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes. Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to - South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters that cover 22 countries and experienced native English-speaking editors to render stories that are informative, informed and perceptive.
We report from the ground where other news services simply can't or won't go. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don't have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.
Click here to find out the ways you can support UCA News. You can make a difference for as little as US$5...