07/28/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Priest beaten into a coma by police. Catholics Protest throughout Vietnam

by J.B. An Dang
Thousands of the faithful take part in demonstrations and prayer vigils in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The priest in a coma was beaten and then hurled from the 2nd floor of a hospital. Another was savagely beaten while 30 policemen stood by watching. The Diocese of Vinh publicly denounces the episode.

Hanoi (AsiaNews)-Two priests are in serious condition after they were savagely beaten by Vietnamese police and thugs, who tried in vain to stop the demonstrations held last July 26 in Vinh (300 km south of Hanoi) to demand justice for the violence used against the Christian community of the parish of Tam Toa (see AsiaNews 21/07/09 - Beatings and arrests of priests and faithful in the historic church of Tam Toa). As news of the priests conditions spread, a series of new demonstrations have been launched in several cities of Vietnam.

The diocesan office in Vinh issued a statement last night in condemning the attacks by police and gangs of thugs acting on police orders, on the two priests, Fr Paul Nguyen Dinh Phu and Fr. Peter Nguyen The Binh, whose conditions are very critical. Both have been admitted to hospital in Dong Hoi, the first with broken ribs and head injuries, the second was beaten into a coma and then hurled from the 2nd floor of the building.

The diocesan statement also denounces that police and gangs of thugs have been attacking anyone who dares to wear a Catholic religious symbol. In a particular episode, the thugs savagely beat a woman, Nguyen Thi Yen and her child of 9 years.

On 26 July morning, Fr. Paul Dinh Phu Nguyen, pastor of Du Loc, was attacked by a group of plainclothes policemen as he was travelling to the parish of Tam Toa, for the celebration of mass together with five other priests of the deanery of Trooc. The mass was to have started a peaceful demonstration to protest against the beating suffered by many faithful of the parish of Tam Toa, who were repairing the ruined church. Seven faithful were arrested.

The event was attended by 170 priests, 420 religious and about 500 thousand Catholics from the diocese of Vinh and other neighbouring dioceses, distributed across 19 deaneries. While making their way to Tam Toa, three women of the village of Dong Yen were beaten by a group of men. Fr. Paul Nguyen tried to intervene to save the women, but "before I could say a word - he said - they have left the women aside and they turned on me, beating me with brutality, having recognized me as a priest. There were at least 30 uniformed policemen nearby and who simply looked on with indifference while I was subjected to the attack. "

The beating left him with some broken ribs and injuries to the face and head. He was saved by a group of believers who freed him and took him to hospital. Afterwards, the gang which had beat him, surrounded the hospital building armed with clubs and other instruments of violence.

The diocesan Office of Vinh immediately issued a public complaint to the People's Committee of Quang Binh and asked a Fr. Peter Nguyen The Binh, pastor of nearby Ha Loi parish, to visit Fr Paul Nguyen, accompanied by Vice Governor Tran Cong Thuat. On arriving at the hospital, Thuat fled. An armed gang surrounded the priest left on his own, savagely beating him into a coma and throwing him from the second floor of the hospital building.  

The news of the attacks to the two priests and other faithful of Dong Hoi has sparked a fresh protest. In Ho Chi Minh City, yesterday evening, more than 2 thousand Catholics attended a prayer vigil at the Redemptorist monastery, asking the Vietnamese government to immediately stop the persecution of the Church.

Almost simultaneously with the vigil in Ho Chi Minh City, other gatherings were organized by the Thai Ha Redemptorists (Hanoi), gathering thousands of faithful. In the evening, in Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh thousands more Catholics came together marching through the streets, praying the rosary and asking for the release of the seven faithful arrested in Tam Toa a week before.

Fr Vo Thanh Tam, secretary of the college for priests of the diocese of Vinh, condemned police brutality in the province of Quang Binh, but praised the police in Vinh for allowing the peaceful march of the faithful last night.

 
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