Youths attend a vigil prayer gathering for victims of persecution on Aug. 19 at Ke Mui Church in Ha Tinh province. (Photo supplied)
Followers of various creeds in Vietnam are called on to pray for victims of religious persecution and respect for freedom of faith on the upcoming International Day Commemorating the Victims of Acts of Violence Based on Religion or Belief.
The day designated by the United Nations’ General Assembly is observed every Aug. 22.
Father Peter Tran Dinh Lai, head of Ha Tinh Diocese’s Committee for Justice and Peace, said freedom of faith is severely violated in many parts of the world and the number of its victims is gradually increasing.
He said followers have their worship places destroyed and suffer mass executions, detention in concentration camps or are forced to leave their homes. Many are deprived of their means of livelihood, faith practice and evangelization, while others are calumniated and labeled aggressively.
The priest said that although few forms of violent persecution take place blatantly, followers record more brutal forms –— seizing religious properties, obstructing construction of religious facilities, banning followers from spreading their faith, vilifying and discriminating against them. More and more people are persecuted for their faiths or beliefs.
He called on local parishes, congregations and people of goodwill to mark the international day by holding prayer gatherings.
“They should pray for those who suffer religious persecution to be steadfast in their faith and strong enough to overcome challenges, and persecuted Christians to get closer to Christ and accompaniment from God’s people,” Father Lai said in an open letter issued on Aug. 16.
He said they should pray for government leaders to respect and secure people’s freedom of religion. All people in Vietnam must fully enjoy freedom of faith, the right to practice their faith, build facilities and develop their lives.
Ha Tinh Diocese covers the two provinces of Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.
Father Lai called on local priests to celebrate special Masses, conduct Eucharist adoration and organize candlelit gatherings.
He said fervent prayer, solidarity and mutual support are necessary for all mankind to build liberty and civilization. “They will ease the feeling of loneliness among victims of religious persecution and keep them steady in living out and expressing their core beliefs,” he added.
Most Venerable Thich Thien Minh of the independent Unified Buddhist Sangha of Vietnam asked Buddhists to hold gatherings on Aug. 22 and work with people of other faiths to pray for those who are harassed, persecuted, imprisoned and killed for their faith and beliefs in Vietnam and around the world.
Most Venerable Minh, who was jailed for 26 years for fighting for religious freedom, also called on the government to free Nguyen Bac Truyen, a prisoner of conscience from Hoa Hao quasi-Buddhist sect who is serving an 11-year sentence for attempts to overthrow the communist government.
Many Christian groups from ethnic minority groups in the Central Highlands and followers of Cao Dai, an indigenous sect, promised to hold prayer gatherings to express their solidarity with victims of religious persecution in the country and abroad.