10/14/2008, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Authorities in Hue trying to seize land where a small country church stands

by J.B. An Dang
What is happening in Hanoi is spreading. A campaign of intimidation and harassment is underway elsewhere in the country to seize land whose owner passed away but where he had allowed the construction of a small church.
Hue (AsiaNews) – The Hanoi People’s Committee (City Hall) is no longer alone. Authorities in Vinh An, Phu Vang, in Thua Thien province (Hue diocese) have told Catholics in An Bang parish to remove the cross and altar from their church which is built, or so they claim, on public land. The injunction was made last Saturday, but Fr Peter Nguyen Huu Giai (pictured) rejected it, demanding the authorities show their title to the land. 

According to the clergyman, the land on which the church now stands was owned by a parishioner, a Mr Le Khinh, who passed away a few years ago. However, “his children are still there, and they own the land legally.”

Vinh An parishioners, most of them poor peasants, built a small church on the land with the agreement from Mr Le Khinh and his children.

The dispute erupted when the congregation’s benefactor died and local government officials began coveting the land.

Like their colleagues in Hanoi, they launched a campaign of intimidation and harassment.

“Every morning, at 5:30 am, loudspeakers start repeating state religious policy, saying how this government respects the Catholic Church,” Father Peter said. Furthermore, “many parishioners have been summoned. Just yesterday, a lot of people were questioned individually as if they had committed a serious crime.”

“I was interrogated at the district police station in Phu Vang for two hours starting at 8.30 am,” he said. “But I rejected every charge they could throw at me. Still they are going to remove our Cross and the altar themselves. We won’t do it whatever pressure they put on us.”

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