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    » 01/08/2008, 00.00

    VIETNAM

    Hanoi Catholics demonstrate for parish land

    J.B. An Dang

    While peaceful demonstrations for the restitution of the old building of the apostolic delegation in Hanoi continues, parishioners from Yhai Ha ask for church lands to be restored. But this time police intervene.

    Hanoi (AsiaNews) – While peaceful demonstrations for the restitution of the old building of the apostolic delegation in Hanoi continue, police have forcibly intervened in an analogues protest in the parish of Thai Ha.

    On January 6 parishioners gathered to ask for the restitution of 60 thousand square metres of parish grounds that have been occupied by state buildings.  Recently, a sewing factory backed by local authorities has also built its workshops on the parish’s land 

    The parishioners held a protest that lasted from morning till late at night. Police in mass clashed with protesters. This was seen as a message that Vietnam’s government was not be prepared for any agreements on land disputes that satisfy the legitimate aspiration of Hanoi’s Catholics. The protest however seems so far to have stopped further appropriation of parish lands.

    Thai Ha parish is run by Redemptorists.  The order arrived in Vietnam in 1925. Since then, Redemptorists have taken the Good News to many provinces in the North of the country. In 1928, they bought 6 hectares at Thai Ha, Hanoi to build a convent and a church. Mass for the Inauguration of the convent was held on 7th May 1929. The church was inaugurated 6 years later, in 1935.

    In 1941, there were up to 66 members including 17 priests, 12 brothers, 26 seminarians, and 11 novices living in the convent. The number of members kept increasing steadily until 1954, when Vietnam was divided into two distinct states. In 1954, most Redemptorists moved to the South of Vietnam. Fr. Joseph Vu Ngoc Bich, Fr. Denis Paquette, Fr. Thomas Côté, Br. Clement Pham Van Dat and Br. Marcel Nguyen Tan Van remained in Hanoi. They lived under extremely harsh treatment by the atheist regime, and soon faced brutal persecutions. On 7th May 1955, Br. Marcel Nguyen was arrested. Two year later, on 9th July 1959, he died in the communist jail. Fr. Denis Paquette faced deportation on 23rd October 1958. One year later, Fr. Thomas Côté faced the same fate. Less than three years later, on 9th October 1962, Br. Clement Pham was jailed. He died later in the communist jail on 7th October 1970 in a rural area of Yen Bai. Since 1962, Fr. Joseph Vu has run the church alone. Despite Fr. Joseph Vu’s persistent protests, local authorities have managed to nibble bite by bite the parish’s land. The original area of 60,000 square meters was reduced to 2,700 square meters. The communist government converted the convent into Dong Da hospital, and distributed or sold illegally large parts of the land to state-owned companies, and government officials.

    Priests, religious and the laity of Thai Ha parish have repeatedly requested for the return of the land seized by the government. In support of their demands they note that the Redemptorists hold the legal land deeds and have never signed agreements to offer any part of the land to the government even under coercive conditions.

    The Catholics, recalling that the constitution safeguardes religious freedom and places of worship, have underlined in particular directive 379/TTG, which specifies that places of worship borrowed by the authorities must be returned to the churches or their owners when their use is no longer justified. Added to this there is decree 26/1999/ND- which provides that church properties must be kept under the management of the state, and the state should not let these places of worships be transgressed, as well as ordinance 21/2004/PL-UBTVQH11 of June 18, 2004 regarding Religious Belief and Religious Organizations, which elaborates that the legal property of places of religious belief and of religious organizations is protected by law; any violation of this right is forbidden.

    Despite all of this the local authorities of Dong Da district persist in their attempts to take even more land away from the parish.   The January 6th protest has however forced them to stop the militia’s intervention in favour of new constructions.

     

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    See also

    17/09/2008 VIETNAM
    By attacking Catholics over Thai Ha, state media risk dividing Vietnamese
    The newspapers deride the Hmong minority women who have taken part in the prayer vigils. But this risks creating opposition between Catholics and non-Catholics. Rumors of more arrests to come.

    28/08/2008 VIETNAM
    Hanoi police threaten Redemptorists and their supporters
    With the clear intention of intimidation, security forces charge the religious with using their influence to incite the faithful in a confrontation with the government, destroying state property, assembling and praying illegally in public areas, and disturbing the public order.

    27/03/2009 VIETNAM
    Sentence against faithful of Thai Ha upheld. Catholics protest injustice
    The appeals court has reconfirmed the sentence against the 8 who were calling for the return of land belonging to the parish. This morning, 5,000 Catholics marched for 12 kilometers to the site of the trial, and were stopped by 1,000 police officers in riot gear with guard dogs. The state television channel accuses the Redemptorists, and recommends that they be arrested. In Saigon, 5,000 Catholics and non-Catholics - together with local political authorities - took part in a prayer vigil. The eight defendants are "like Jesus."

    21/11/2011 VIETNAM
    Thai Ha priest insulted and threatened during Mass
    A uniformed man bursts into the church in front of indifferent police agents, scaring children who were attending a weekly mass for Eucharistic groups. Some fear the act might be followed by more terrorist actions.

    18/11/2011 VIETNAM
    Catholics take to the streets in Hanoi demanding justice
    Thousands of faithful began demonstrating this morning to defend Thai Ha Parish against the unlawful seizure of what is left of its land. They also protested against the defamation campaign against them by state TV.



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