12/28/2010, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Hanoi celebrates Christmas with a series of attacks against Christians

by Joseph Dang
Faithful beaten and arrested, religious sisters threatened. These the most recent episodes in a campaign that has seen a bishop prevented from celebrating Christmas mass, raids against a church and a revival of the "patriotic" Catholic.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - With a series of attacks against Christians, the Vietnamese authorities have seriously interfered in the celebration of Christmas. In Hanoi, Dec. 19, about two thousand Protestants were planning a celebration at the National Convention Centre, in the district of Tu Liem, rented for the occasion. But at the last moment the managers of the state owned structure, pulled their permission.

Deeply disappointed to see the doors closed and hundreds of plain clothes activists barring their access, the Christians started to pray and sing in the square outside the building. The police called in reinforcements, who started to beat them (pictured), also using electric batons. Six people, including the Rev. Nguyen Huu Bao, who was to lead the meeting, were arrested.

Similar events took place in Thanh Hoa, Nghe An and Da Nang.

The attitude of the authorities towards Christians is borne out in a series of raids against the church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ho Chi Minh City, run by the Redemptorists and in other attacks on the religious themselves, including the destruction of the Dalat monastery.

The attack on another monastery was reported by Sister Philippe Dinh Thi Nhung, provincial superior of the Sisters of Providence of Portieux. In a letter dated December 21, the nun says that since June 25, 1976 "the government coercively borrowed part of our monastery of Soc Trang City." "Recently, for the well being of our sisters, we needed to restore part of our home. We asked for the return of the rest of the house, but they refused and started to threaten us". The sister is in possession of documents in which the authority states it will return the property, if required.

Added to these events the ban on Msgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh, Bishop of Kontum from celebrating Christmas mass and the resumption of efforts by the "Committee of Hanoi for the solidarity of Catholics." On 21 December, the vice president of Catholic pro-government "patriots", Pham Huy Thong, in a conference widely reported in government press announced a 2011 campaign, titled "Every Catholic in the capital is a good citizen”. This sentence was first expressed 27 June 2009 by the Pope to the bishops in Vietnam. Taken out of context, it is used by state media and the "patriotics" to achieve the complete submission of the Catholics to the will of civil authorities.

In the opinion of Father Pascal Nguyen Ngoc Tinh, a biblical scholar from Ho Chi Minh City, what is happening in Vietnam, in the wake of the outcome of the Eighth Assembly of the representatives of Chinese Catholics, indicates that Hanoi is implementing a strategy to transform Vietnamese Catholicism into a "religion of rituals and festivals," a decoration for the regime’s self-promotion "to mask its commitment to human rights”.

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