Hanoi (AsiaNews) - Catholics beaten, a journalist attacked and injured, a priest threatened and under attack. This is the provisional toll from tensions in Dong Hoi, 70 kilometers south of Hanoi, in the aftermath of the destruction of the crucifix in the parish cemetery by the local authorities and their intervention to quell violent protests against the sacrilegious act. An act condemned by the bishops of the northern part of Vietnam.
"If he had not had a helmet, he would be dead" said the nurse who is treating JB Nguyen Huu Vinh, a Catholic journalist who was attacked and beaten by dozens of agents and pro-government thugs. The attack occurred yesterday. At 5.30 pm Father Nguyen Van Lien, of the parish of Dong Chiem, together with the journalist was making a motorcycle ride around the village. "I trying to get around a big pile of dirt placed on the bridge of the Nang - says the priest – placed there to prevent access to the area, when a group of uniformed and plainclothes police attacked us." "Seeing that the journalist had a camera around his neck, a dozen policemen jumped on him, trying to snatch it. I left the bike and rushed to his defence, but the agents used sticks to threaten me and make me turn back. Then, once they had the camera, they ran away, leaving the victim in the street, unconscious and with his face bloodied”.
A nun of the order of the Lovers of the Holy Cross in Dong Chiem came to their rescue. Along the way they met a bicycle with two disabled Catholic war veterans. They wanted to go to Dong Chiem. They had encountered the same group of policemen and were also attacked.
The attack on the priest and other Catholics led to a protest march of thousands of Catholics on the streets of Dong Hoi. The protesters also demanded the release of five people, among the poorest parishioners Dong Chiem, held since January 7. That day, the five had been summoned to the service canter of the government to "fill forms for food aid”. At end of day, loudspeakers announced that the five "had bowed their heads, pleading guilty" to having built the bamboo cross, situated in the place where the great crucifix was destroyed with explosives, the day before by the authorities.
The cross signifies the right to property of a site that has "belonged to the parish for more than one hundred years and which we do not want to give up".
The situation Dong Chiem seems to be moving in the same direction as that of Thai Ha, Tam Toa and Vinh Long. Gangs of thugs (in photo) and state media attack Catholics beat and defame them, threaten their jobs, encourage contempt for religion and hatred between believers and nonbelievers. On 9 January, the president of the district, Le Cong Sang, signed a statement accusing Father Joseph Nguyen Van Huu of "not to meeting his duties as pastor and instead of encouraging his followers to commit crimes," of " supporting anti-government activities "," undermining the large bloc of national unity "and" conducting propaganda against the government of the people. "
Sang has also ordered the priest to remove the bamboo cross and to report in person to the People's Committee of My Duc district. Father Van Huu has posted an announcement on the walls of the parish to make known the latest developments to the faithful to make sure that they are not alone: masses and prayer vigils in support of them are being celebrated throughout the country and even abroad, the United States, England , Ireland, Japan.
Support for the priest and his faithful has been expressed by several bishops of Vietnam. Bishop Joseph Nguyen Van Yen, of Phat Diem, went in person, despite the risk of being attacked by the usual thugs.
From Australia, the Federation of Catholic media has reported police violence against the journalist, as well as towards others, and asked the Vietnamese government to carry out an inquiry into the case so as to avoid further violations of justice and ensure that victims are compensated for material and moral damage. In a statement they have expressed "growing concern" about what is happening in Dong Chiem and ask the government to restore respect for the law and prevent violence against those who take part in activities of prayer.