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    » 03/30/2015, 00.00


    Kontum, communist authorities threaten to tear down 22 chapels. Appeal from Bishop

    Paul N. Hung

    The leadership of Djak Tô district want to demolish dozens of private premises used for prayers and functions. The area lacks churches and in the past, people would travel up to 100 km to attend mass. Faithful turn to the bishop, who responds with a letter. While calling for calm, the prelate recalls the right to religious freedom recognized by the government.

    Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The communist authorities of Djak Tô district - Diocese of Kontum, in the province of the same name located in the Central Highlands of Vietnam – are threatening to tear down 22 Catholic chapels and places of prayer, because they do not have building permits or permits to be used for worship.

    The faithful, who fear to see their chapels destroyed in an area that has no churches and prayer centers, have turned to the bishop to stop the demolition and ensure respect for religious freedom. In response, the prelate wrote a letter to parishioners, asking them to continue in the faith, but at the same time, to seek a way of dialogue and reconciliation with the local administration.

    On 30 January, the president of Djak Tô district published a document ordering the demolition of 22 chapels belonging to the Catholic minority. On February 4, the vice-president sent a letter to local officials ordering them to proceed with the demolition. At the same time, Catholics will be prohibited from using their homes as a place of worship or for "religious purposes".

    To date, the buildings have not been demolished, but local sources report that (in the next few days) the provision will be enforceable. Meanwhile the authorities have strengthened surveillance, to prevent houses being used for prayer, Bible reading or ordinary pastoral activities.

    The faithful, who fear of losing these meeting places, have turned to the bishop of Kontum Msgr. Michael Hoàng Đức Oanh who, in response, wrote them a letter inviting them to remain calm, but  steadfast in their faith. The prelate urges them to address the problem wisely and not exasperate sentiments, while defending the absolute principle "of religious freedom, which is recognized by the Church in Vietnam." He also promises he will liaise with the local authorities,  to help them “better understand the issue”.

    The bishop notes that families have every right to "practice religious activity" in their homes, a right recognized and guaranteed by the laws of the country and this "should be patiently explained " to local administrators. The prelate concludes by reminding Catholics that, in joy and in sorrow, what matters is "to recognize the presence of God" and "the light of faith, living the mission as disciples of Jesus Christ."

    The diocese of Kontum in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, was erected in 1884 and is now composed of about 250 thousand faithful out of a total of 1.2 million inhabitants, half of whom belong to ethnic minorities. The Catholics from the area of ​​ Djak Tô district, for 30 years (from 1975, with the rise to power of the communist North, until 2005) were forced to travel up to 100 km on foot to hear Mass and receive the sacraments. Recently, authorities agreed to allow some priests in the area, even if the number of places of worship - churches and prayer chapels - are insufficient to meet the demands of the Catholic community.

    At least three districts - Đăc Tô, Tu Nơ Rông aqnd ĐăkGlei, home to 51 thousand Catholics out of a total of 142 thousand people – have been given permission by the Communist two build two "official churches". Authorities have refused the request of the parishioners for other places of worship. Hence, the need for "clandestine" churches and prayer houses which local officials now want to block or demolish.


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    See also

    30/12/2013 VIETNAM
    Vietnamese Catholics attacked while carrying Christmas gifts to orphans
    Attack took place in Kontum, where a group of volunteers were blocked by police and forced to turn back. One of the assaulted, tortured by the head of the local Communist Party, ended up in hospital with multiple internal injuries.

    20/10/2015 VIETNAM
    New Bishop of Kontum, a diocese wounded by poverty, leprosy and lack of religious freedom
    Msgr. Aloisio Nguyễn Hùng Vi, 63, was appointed by Pope Francis on October 7 and will replace Msgr. Michael Hoàng Duc Oanh. Ethnic diversity, poverty and hostile attitude of the government the most pressing issues. "I chose the motto 'Caritas in Veritate' to remind me that I have to love selflessly. We build the Kingdom of God in mission lands".

    16/10/2015 VIETNAM
    Religious freedom denied: Bishop of Kontum slams church demolition
    In an open letter Msgr. Michael Hoang Duc Oanh denounces communist authorities attacks on faithful. At the center of the dispute a place of worship subject to extension work. In response, parishioners take turns holding vigil to protect the building.

    26/09/2005 VIETNAM
    Hanoi seminary to admit candidates every year
    Seminary not allowed though to build housing for seminarians. Government still imposes restrictions on the country's five other major seminaries.

    20/05/2009 VIETNAM
    No “power or influence” can shake Catholic communities
    The faithful face a lot of difficulties in places like Son La where the authorities have decreed that “there is no need for religion” and enforced a ban on Mass for years. Now the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom has come to town.

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