Ho Chi Minh City
(AsiaNews / EDA) - A battle to achieve "fairness and justice," to
safeguard "the feelings of the people" Vietnamese and Catholic and their legitimate
"interests". This is
the message at the heart of a letter written by Msgr. Michael
Hoang Duc Oanh, bishop of the diocese of Kontum in the Central Highlands, regarding
Church property illegally confiscated by local government. In
the letter addressed to the highest institutions of the province, the prelate,
a passionate defender of religious freedom in past campaigns (see AsiaNews
attack against priest and Christians generating "frustration and
misunderstanding"), denounces "the
destruction of a key charity centre", the latest act of a series of
seizures and confiscations of property and assets belonging to the Vietnamese Catholic
The open letter was dated 28 May, but only in recent days appeared on the Vietcatholich News section in the local language. It is addressed to the President of the People's Committee of the province of Kontum and, in the first instance, wants to clarify that the loss of property or tangible property is not a "mortal wound". However, Msgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh adds that the fight for religious freedom also involves the "defense of justice and inalienable rights" of people and property, taken "on loan" from local governments in recent decades and never returned.
The prelate cites "several sources" according to whom the provincial section of the Ministry of Education "is preparing to demolish the Kontum diocese charity center" to build in its place, "an institute for the training of nursery school personnel". The manner by which authorities have requisitioned the property, according to Msgr. Michel, is symptomatic of the "manner and political ways of a regime." Regardless of the fact that the property belonged to the Church and "should be returned to its rightful owner," added the bishop, the local authorities "continue to act as if nothing has happened and violate the very principles they have laid down."
In practice, there are three cases mentioned explicitly by the Bishop of Kontum: the convent of the Sisters of Charity, built in the 1930s, and demolished to make way for a government institution, the expulsion of the Sisters of Providence from their convent and who have been left for 30 years without a home, the charity center "borrowed" in 1978 and never returned. In addition there are other small and large examples of violations, leading religious and faithful to loose trust in the government and its institutions.
"This case is not just a matter of goods and property," adds Msgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh. "It is a factor of fairness and justice: it is also a question of people's feelings, their rights, the law and the wellbeing of the individual." We are not asking for "favors," said the prelate, but "we just want to be treated with the same justice that is due to all citizens who have the right to live successfully in a society where the law is fully applicable in practice" built on the principles of "truth, justice and love."