An activist Catholic priest known for his human rights work and campaigns for social justice has been barred from leaving the country for “national security” reasons. "Redemptorist Father John Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong was stopped at Noi Bai Airport and prevented from travelling to Australia on a study trip as he was checking in on June 27," a church source said. In a post on Facebook, officials said Father Phong, from Thai Ha Parish in Hanoi, was prevented from traveling overseas "for the protection of national security, social order and safety." The source said the ban was likely an act of punishment against Father Phong in revenge for his human rights activities. Catholic blogger John Baptist Nguyen Huu Vinh said on Facebook that Father Phong is well known for fighting for justice, truth and helping people who fall foul of the communist government. "He struggles for religious freedom among people in northwest provinces and gives them opportunities to escape poverty," he said. Vinh, a close friend of the priest, said Father Phong, 47, works with victims of land-grabbing, prisoners of conscience and victims of environmental pollution. The priest also offers courses on justice and peace. In May, state officials and media accused Father Phong of defaming the achievements of the Communist Party and undermining national solidarity.
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