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    » 01/12/2010, 00.00

    VIETNAM

    In Dong Chiem Catholics beaten, a journalist wounded and a priest threatened

    Emily Nguyen

    Attacked by uniformed and plainclothes police, who took his camera, the reporter was abandoned unconscious and bleeding in the street. Solidarity of the bishops of North Vietnam for Father Van Lien, accused by authorities of inducing"the faithful to commit crimes."

    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.

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    See also

    14/01/2010 VIETNAM
    Dong Chiem is becoming a "Mount of Crosses"
    The police have poured reinforcements and set up roadblocks to stop the pilgrimages of the faithful to the spot where the crucifix was destroyed, but people still manage to pass and erect other crosses on the hill. Demonstrations and protest.

    26/02/2010 VIETNAM
    Sisters assaulted and beaten by police in Dong Chiem
    The sisters were attacked by plain clothes police, their guide ends up in hospital. The Bishops conference requests the correction of a news report published by the official agency according to which they had sent New Year greetings to the Patriotic Front, the Communist Party organization.

    15/01/2010 VIETNAM
    Authorities deny attack on the parishioners of Dong Chiem
    The vice president of the local People's Committee said that the cross was destroyed had been built illegally on public land and that the parish has rejected attempts to dialogue. But the archbishop of Hanoi insists that the hill has belonged to the church for more than one hundred years and the head of the Communist Party of Dong Chiem confirms the raid on the faithful.

    18/01/2010 VIETNAM
    The Vietnam News Agency denies Dong Chiem repression and attacks AsiaNews
    The government agency says that AsiaNews reported "defamatory stories” regarding the "removal" of the crucifix. Other government sources say that the cross was destroyed by the faithful. Too bad that it was blown up with explosives, that police beatings stopped the parishioners protests and that bishops are inviting authorities not to encourage "further discontent, anger and distrust among the population"

    25/01/2010 VIETNAM
    Thousands of Catholics pray for Dong Chiem, the parish under siege
    Vigils were held in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, prayers for the faithful and priests, and also for the Vietnamese government. Despite the threats made against those who had taken part in the vigils and the presence of police forces around the churches, there were no incidents.



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