01/15/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Vietnamese Catholics broaden their protest demanding justice

by J.B. An Dang
After Hanoi and Hồ Chí Minh City, Hà Ðông is now the scene of protests. Local Catholics demand the return of their parish building but the authorities refuse claiming they got it as a gift.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – After Hanoi and Hồ Chí Minh City, protests have reached Hà Ðông, a city with about 200,000 residents located some 40 kilometres from the Vietnamese capital. Here Catholics have peacefully protested demanding the return of their parish building which the authorities illegally seized claiming that it had been donated.

The protest began 6 January and since then has seen hundreds of faithful meeting in front of what was once their parish building to pray for justice to be done.

The faithful were provoked into action by a statement made by government officials rejecting their demand that the building be returned to its owners after it was seized 30 years to house the Hà Ðông People’s Committee. Parishioners have repeatedly forwarded petitions demanding the building’s return but to no avail.

However, Hà Ðông was recently elevated to the status of city and so the Committee was moved. This persuaded the parish vicar, Fr Joseph Nguyễn Ngọc Hinh, to try again to get the building back.

This time however he got an astonishing answer. He was told that a “parish leader” had donated the building to the government in 1977.

Father Nguyễn responded saying that no parishioner has the right to do such a thing.

Even more astonishing was the fact that the “parish leader” who made the donation was in fact a member of the Communist Party appointed by the government to the parish council who in turn donated the property to the government.

In Hà Ðông the protest continues.

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