Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Vietnamese authorities appear to have opted for a violent crackdown. In Dong Chiem parish, a man religious was viciously beaten (pictured), many people have been threatened, some arrested, whilst the local church is under siege, no one allowed near it. This comes after Catholics held a peaceful rally to protest the destruction of a cross on Mount Tho in an area owned by the Church for over a hundred years. Meanwhile, expressions of solidarity have poured in from Catholics in other neighbouring provinces of northern Vietnam.
The parish church “has been completely surrounded and isolated” since yesterday. “Anyone who approaches the entrance is stopped by security agents who man checkpoints around the building. Priests from the Hanoi deanery have been stopped before they could cross the Xay River bridge, some 500 metres from the church.”
The archdiocese of Hanoi has used the aforementioned terms to describe the situation. Its strong-worded statement will be read in all of the capital’s churches at the end of every Mass, starting today until next Sunday.
Saint Francis’ prayer will be read. “Where there is hatred, let me sow love,” the text says, “for the parish priest, his vicar and all his faithful,” and “especially for our brothers and sisters” who have been “beaten and jailed. May they firmly keep their faith in this time of difficulty and be able to join the mystery of the Cross of Christ.”
The statement goes further. “We want man’s fundamental human rights be respected,” it said, “so that our country can have peace, justice, democracy and know true civilisation”.
It also refers to hundreds of police agents and soldiers, some in uniform, others in plain clothes, mobilised for the action against the parish. It speaks of parishioners terrorised by loud speakers spewing insults, lies and threats against the parish priest, Fr Nguyen Van Huu, his vicar, Fr Nguyen Van Lien (who have already been interrogated and threatened several times by police) and parishioners. Altogether 16 people are said to have been detained or arrested.
“The inhuman treatment meted out on 11 January to Nguyen Huu Vinh was far worse. The same is true for Redemptorist Brother Anthony Nguyen Van Tang.”
“At the checkpoint on the Xay River bridge, four or five agents attacked the Redemptorist and a layman. The latter was only slightly injured, but Br Anthony Nguyen received wounds to the head, lips and eyes. The victims was viciously beaten until he lost consciousness,” Redemptorist Provincial Superior Fr Peter Nguyen Van Khai wrote.
If the situation was not so tragic, the recent attack against AsiaNews by the state-controlled Vietnam News Agency (VNA) could be treated as a bad joke.
Knowing that it cannot be contradicted at home, VNA accused AsiaNews of spreading “defamatory stories” concerning the Dong Chiem affair, claiming that “Catholics have not suffered repression.”