07/13/2011, 00.00
VIETNAM

Ho Chi Minh City, the Redemptorists superior banned from leaving the country

by Kelly-Ann Nguyen
Fr. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh was held for hours in the airport, and then sent home without any explanation. The Redemptorists are being targeted by police. They are active in defending the rights of the poor against social injustices, such as the illegal expropriation of land. They support the protests against China's aggressive stance.
Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - "The police stopped me at the last control point, after I had completed all the procedures at the airport. They kept me in custody for hours before they ordered me to go home without any explanation", said the provincial superior of the Redemptorists in Vietnam, Fr. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh, to AsiaNews as he was prevented from leaving on July 10 last from Tan Son Nhat airport for Singapore, where he was to attend the provincial conference of the Redemptorists in East Asia and Oceania. The conference took place at the monastery of Novedia July 11 to 13.

The incident has prompted the Vietnamese province of the order to issue a press release, which has accused the police of Saigon of grossly violating the rights of the Superior, preventing him from leaving the country to attend a religious event, and also denying permission to celebrate Mass at a pro life rally. According to Vietnamese law people not permitted to leave the country should be informed one month in advance. This rule does not apply to criminals on the run, or those convicted of a crime, but the religious does not fall into either category.

Father Vincent Pham Trung Thanh has written a letter of protest to the Committee for Religious Affairs of Saigon, highlighting his suffering in the hours of arrest, until finally the security forces told him he was on the list of people forbidden to cross the border. Vincent Pham Trung Thanh has already been the subject of violations of his rights by the regime, the situation has worsened recently when the government began to suppress the manifestations of those who expressed concern at the aggressive attitude of China, and the weak response of the government in Hanoi.

It is the second time that the Provincial of the Redemptorists was prevented from leaving Vietnam. A similar incident happened Dec. 28, 2010, when he had to leave for the United States. A few weeks before that date, local security officials summoned him to "working sessions" at a government office. During the meeting officials from different government departments in turn took the floor to criticize the Redemptorists, accusing them of preaching anti-government sentiments, of incitement to disorder, demonstrations and violation of the law.

AsiaNews asked him if he wants to send a message to the public. The cleric has expressed deep concern for the Church in Vietnam, where the religious rights and moral values appear at a low ebb. He called on Catholics to be united and pray for the Church and the country. "I am deeply concerned about the situation in Vietnam, where everyone helplessly watches as our homeland piece by piece fall into the hands of Chinese aggressors, and the government is only concerned with arresting and punishing patriots fighting for national integrity." The Province of the Redemptorists in Vietnam is Asia's largest religious community. Over the past 20 years, it has grown from 179 to 278 members, including 168 priests who live in 20 houses around the country. There are also 220 postulants. The Redemptorists are playing an active role in defending the poor against social injustices such as the illegal expropriation of land.

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