Hanoi (AsiaNews) - "All who take the sword will perish by the sword" is the title of a statement released today by the bishop of Thai Binh, Francis Nguyen Van Sang, who warns the Hanoi authorities: "Using the sword against innocent civilians is shameful, and will be condemned by international public opinion". The statement is a response to articles in the New Hanoi and in the People’s Police on September 8, in which generals Nguyen Van Huong, the deputy minister of public security, and Nguyen Duc Nhanh, director of the public security agency in Hanoi, issued a warning to the archbishop of the capital, Ngo Quang Kiet, the priests, and the faithful, about an impending crackdown.
The threat concerns the peaceful prayer vigils that Catholics of the parish of Thai Ha have long been organizing to call for the restitution of the property illegally seized from their church. Bishop Nguyen has explained that the parishes have repeatedly asked for the restitution of the property, protesting the illegality of the seizure, but without any effect. In response to their legitimate requests, the government has launched a media campaign of false accusations, and has physically attacked them. "Only those who are totally devoid of all conscience can ignore the truth”, the archbishop comments, adding that "dishonesty and brutality cannot dominate forever".
Meanwhile, as Fr Nguyen tells AsiaNews from Hanoi, "thousands of Catholics continue to gather daily here to pray". "They go in procession from the monastery to the land in dispute, where most of the time they just stand in silence to pray for hours, braving cold rain and hot sun. The prayer protest is very peaceful. Sometimes the protesters sing hymns, sometimes they sing the rosary together. But they never yell or shout any slogans. They just stand there silently but stubbornly asking for justice".
Yesterday, another bishop went to Thai Ha to express solidarity. Cosme Hoang Van Dat, the bishop of Bac Ninh, arrived with 39 priests and hundreds of faithful. "I have prayed for you from afar", he said on arriving, "and today I want to be with you, in the place where I went to Mass as a child, to express my solidarity with you".
Cosme Hoang has been bishop of Bac Ninh, in the northern part of the country, since April. Last week, he went to Tam Dao to reconsecrate a church taken by the authorities 54 years ago.