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Bishops Send Government Views On Sensitive Issues

Updated: October 02, 2008 12:23 PM GMT
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Vietnam´s bishops have suggested, in a public statement to government authorities, that in order to fully resolve land and property disputes, laws regarding property should be amended so people have the right to possess what is theirs. In their two-page statement, the bishops highlighted property laws that do not honor private ownership as well as corruption, dishonesty in state-run media and the spread of deceitfulness in many fields, even in education. They also warned about the increasing use of force to resolve land disputes and other problems, which they said will cause more injustice in society. Thousands of Catholics have gathered in recent months at the former apostolic nunciature in Ha Noi and a contested plot of land in Thai Ha parish, run by Redemptorists in the capital. They prayed for the government to return the two sites. Beginning on Sept. 19, the government has been building a flower garden at the compound of the former nunciature and renovating the building for use as a library. They also started building another garden at the Thai Ha site on Sept. 25. Hundreds of policemen and plainclothes police officers have erected iron barriers on streets leading to the sites. They are preventing local Catholics from gathering and praying there. The bishops expressed their desire that all people refrain from violence in their actions and words, and avoid seeing the property disputes from a political or criminal standpoint. They also urged state-run media to respect the truth and be highly cautious about reporting news and publishing photos. Only when respecting the truth do media really fulfill their function of communication and education toward building a just, democratic and civilized society, they added. The bishops´ statement was attached to a Sept. 25 letter to the Ha Noi People´s Committee. That letter was a direct response to the committee´s petition for the Vietnam Bishops´ Conference to "deal strictly and according to Church regulations" with Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Ha Noi and Fathers Pierre Nguyen Van Khai, John Nguyen Ngoc Nam Phong, Matthew Vu Khoi Phung and Joseph Nguyen Van That, Redemptorist priests at Thai Ha parish. Committee head Nguyen The Thao asked the country´s bishops to "transfer" Archbishop Kiet and the Redemptorists to places outside the archdiocese. The government official also accused the five of instigating other clergy and Catholics to violate laws, cause social disorder and hold illegal religious activities. In their letter, the bishops affirmed that after taking the cases into consideration, "we see that these clergy have not acted against current Canon Law of the Catholic Church." The letter and statement were issued during the biennial bishops´ conference meeting, held Sept. 22-26 at the Xuan Loc bishop´s house in Long Khanh, 1,630 kilometers south of Ha Noi. The bishops also sent Ha Noi city authorities, the premier, the president, the government committee for religious affairs, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and local Redemptorists copies of their letter and statement. These reportedly were read during Sunday Masses on Sept. 28 at all churches throughout the country, and copies distributed among local Catholics. The bishops´ statement, translated into English by UCA News, follows: THE VIETNAM BISHOPS´ CONFERENCE´S VIEWPOINT ON CURRENT ISSUES The joy and hope, sorrow and anxiety of Vietnamese people are also the joy and hope, sorrow and anxiety of ours, the bishops from the Vietnam Bishops´ Conference. Politics is not in the Church´s functionalities, yet the Church cannot stand aside from society. Therefore, we Church leaders take responsibility to preach the Church´s social teaching so as to advance people and improve entirely the social life. After we have had discussions and prayed together, we would like to present our viewpoint on some key issues in the current situation. I. SITUATIONS 1. The extended and unresolved complaints about land are the current issue, including land of religions in general and of the Catholic Church in particular. The cases of the former apostolic nunciature (42 Nha Chung St.) and Thai Ha parish (178 Nguyen Luong Bang St., Ha Noi) are typical of such complaints. There are definitely many contributory causes for the above situation, but here we would like to pay special attention to this matter: the land laws that have been amended many times are still outdated, unable to catch up with the speed of social transformation. Especially, people´s private ownership has not been taken into consideration. Moreover, corruption and bribery have been making the situation worse. We think that a comprehensive solution is impossible without studying these factors. 2. In the process of dealing with disputes, some mass media spread puzzlement and distrust instead of serving as bridges of unification and sympathy. Frankly, mass media have never been as advanced and powerful as they are now. Thanks to this, people can broaden their knowledge and improve their communication with one another. Mass media, however, can only bring real benefits to people and society when they serve the truth and give a true reflection of reality. Nowadays, one of the most aching issues for conscientious people is deceitfulness in many fields, even in the educational environment, where truth is needed. Definitely, all those who are concerned about the future of our country and people cannot afford to ignore this situation. 3. Also during the process of resolving the above conflicts and other problems, some people tend to resort to violence, which thus causes more injustice in society. This tendency is on the increase, not only regarding big social issues, but in family life and at schools as well. Violence and force are deep in people´s very soul, where there are endless struggles between good and evil, light and darkness. Without guidance and practice, people will be vulnerable to their selfish ambitions, and evil will prevail in social life. Therefore, moral education and conscience training must be a top priority for the entire society, and they require active involvement of all citizens as well as social organizations. II. OUR VIEWPOINT Facing the current situation, we have the following suggestions: 1. First, if the land laws are still outdated, they ought to be amended. This amendment needs to pay attention to people´s private ownership as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: "Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others;" and "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property" (Article 17). We, therefore, assume that instead of resolving the issues by dealing with each single case on an individual basis, authorities have to search for a more thorough solution, meaning to let people have the right to possess their land and property, and people in return must recognize their social responsibilities. This demand becomes more urgent in the globalization process, when Vietnam has been more involving in the rhythm of the world. This will be the basic premise of fully resolving people´s land and property disputes, and at the same time, it can also contribute to the economic growth and sustainable development of the country. 2. Next, professional ethics requires communications workers to respect the truth. In reality, there has been distorted or truncated information as in the land dispute at the former apostolic nunciature. We, therefore, suggest communications workers be highly cautious about reporting news and publishing photos, especially when these relate to the honor and prestige of individuals and communities. If false information has been given, it should be retracted. Only when respecting the truth do media really fulfill their function of communication and education so as to build a just, democratic and civilized society. 3. Finally, Vietnamese people´s ethics and cultural traditions emphasize mutual affection and harmony in society. However, during the process of resolving recent disputes, it is regrettable that violent actions have been taken, thus destroying the harmonious interrelation in life. So, we are eager to wish all people to end any form of violence in their actions and words. We also should not look at these disputes from a political or criminal standpoint. A satisfactory solution would be reached only through frank, open and sincere dialogue, in peace and mutual respect for one another. Coming from our desire to actively contribute to the country´s stable and sustainable development, we would like to share these thoughts with our fellow Christians and all people of good will and sincere hearts. We firmly believe that when we together work to build the country on the basis of justice, truth and love, Vietnam our country will become more prosperous, bring happiness and wealth to everyone, and construct a better world. Prepared at Xuan Loc bishop´s house, Sept 25, 2008 On behalf of the Vietnam Bishops´ Conference President, Bishop Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon (signed and sealed) END

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