05/12/2017, 14.03
VIETNAM
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Catholic media launch appeal for Vietnamese priests defamed by the government

by Peter Đang

Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam and Fr. Nguyễn Đình Thục support protests against the government for failing to distribute compensation from a company responsible for one of the most serious environmental disasters in the country's history. The Catholic Mass Media Federation in a statement: "Immediately stop terrorist acts against the priests of Thuận Nghĩa." "With our total confidence in God, we are in communion, we share and accompany the victims of the disaster." "We call upon international bodies to accompany us in the fight for human rights and religious freedom in Vietnam."

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Two priests from the diocese of Vinh are being targeted by the Vietnamese government. Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam and Fr. Nguyễn Đình Thục are the parish priests of the Phu Yên and Song Ngoc churches. In recent months they have supported their faithful in protests against the government and Formosa Plastics Corporation, the Taiwanese company responsible for the most serious environmental disaster in the country's history. The Vietnamese authorities conducted a defamatory campaign against the two parishioners on all official media, television, radio, and government-controlled newspapers. Faced with this unprecedented attack on their confreres, members of the local clergy have not stood idly by. In a statement signed by many priests, they support Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam and Fr. Nguyễn Đình Thục. The Vietnam Catholic Mass Media Federation takes a stand on the case and issued an official release yesterday in Sydney. Below is the full statement.

The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media

11th May, 2017

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

Sydney, 11 May 2017. The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media, before the international community, protests and sternly condemns the intense, orchestrated wave of attacks against Catholic priests in the Vinh Diocese by Vietnamese government.

Last year, a steel mill owned by the Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Corporation discharged 12,000 cubic metres of liquid toxic waste into the sea through drainage pipes in what was the worst incident of its kind in the country.

The waste killed hundreds of tonnes of fish, negatively impacting the population of Vietnam’s central provinces. About 250 km of coastline suffered serious environmental damage and more than 40,000 fishermen lost their livelihood.

In an agreement signed by the Formosa Plastics Corporation and the government without any public hearings, Hanoi accepted compensation to the tune of US$ 500 million on behalf of the victims. The money, however, has never been handed out to the victims.

As the waiting gets longer, the sense of injustice and resentment has grown against the government, accused of corruption and failed policies.

Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam and Fr. Nguyễn Đình Thục, who are pastors in the deanery of Thuận Nghĩa - where the Formosa environmental disaster caused greatest impacts, support affected residents and have taken a stance against the authorities and their shortcomings.

The priests have actively spoken for and acted on behalf of victims of the Formosa environmental disaster as the government still allows the Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation to exist; and keeps covering up for and protecting the dangerous company so that it can continue to dump toxic waste in the sea without any intention of cleaning up the waters.

In an attempt to silence the priests, since the beginning of this year, Vietnamese government has mobilised a large number of state-run media outlets in a campaign of false accusation against them.

More seriously, in recent days, it has employed peripheral organisations of the Communist Party including the Women movements, Youth associations, and veterans’ organisations to threaten the priests. A veterans’ organisation in Nghe An Province even went so far as to threaten Bishop Paul Nguyễn Thái Hợp of Vinh with violence demanding that the two priests be removed from their posts.

In the most extreme episode, since May 7th, 2017, a series of large meetings and protests against the priests have been held in the Quỳnh Lưu County. Students, including those in primary schools, have been forced to participate in protests and to yell slogans that condemn the priests as anti-revolutionaries, demanding that they should be arrested immediately and be sentenced with heavy imprisonment.

The scene at these protests is completely similar to that of public denunciation during the land reform period (1953 – 1956) where tens of thousands of people were killed. As it usually happens in Vietnam, these protests serve as a prelude for an imminent crackdown on the priests and those who dare to back the victims of the environmental disaster.

Convinced that the Catholic Church must stand for Truth, defending the poor and all those who are victims of an unjust and brutal regime, The Federation of the Vietnamese Catholics Mass Media lend full support to the diocese of Vinh. We  sternly condemns and denounces before international community the inhumane conducts and the violent actions of public authorities against Fr. Đặng Hữu Nam and Fr. Nguyễn Đình Thục, and the victims of the  Formosa environmental disaster; and ask the communist government of Vietnam to do the followings:

1) Stop immediately the terroristic acts against the Catholic priests of Thuận Nghĩa.

2) Stop the persecution of the Catholic Church and other religions.

3) Solemnly abide the law promulgated by its own government and make proper compensations to the victims.

4) Absolutely respect Human Rights and Religious Freedom as the Charter of the United Nations affirmed.

With our complete trust in God, we would be in communion, share and accompany the victims of the Formosa environmental disaster, and the diocese of Vinh in their way of the cross. We earnestly call for all Congresses, governments, political parties of all nations, the Human Rights organizations, the Amnesty Internationals, the International Commission on Human Rights, any organizations with special concerns for Freedom and Human Rights in Vietnam, and the World Communication Agencies to please accompany us in the struggle for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in Vietnam.

Contacts:

Rev. John Tran Cong Nghi

Director of VietCatholic News Agency

Rev. Anthony Nguyen Huu Quang

Vice Director of VietCatholic News Agency

Editor of the People of God Monthly Magazine ( in Australia )

Rev. Stephen Luu Thuong Bui

Editor of the People of God Monthly Magazine (in Europe)

Rev. Paul Van- Chi Chu

Vice Director of VietCatholic News Agency

The Federation of Vietnamese Catholic Mass Media

 

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