10/09/2013, 00.00
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Kontum bishop comes out against Vietnamese authorities, telling them to stop attacks against Vinh Diocese

by J.B. An Dang
Bishop Michael Hoang Duc Oanh sends a letter to Nghe-An province's deputy chief, who is responsible for the smear campaign against the bishop of Vinh. The prelate stands in solidarity with Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, calling for an end to his persecution. He also calls for "reconciliation" between government and the people.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - The Bishop of Kontum in Vietnam's Central Highlands has called on Vietnamese authorities to put a stop to the slanderous attacks against the bishop of Vinh. He wants them instead to start a process of reconciliation with the people.

In a letter to Thai Van Hang, deputy chief of Nghe-An Province, Mgr Michael Hoang Duc Oanh called on the local administration "not to throw more fuel on the fire" and cause "more suffering" to a population already harmed "by man and the natural elements."

The last reference is to last week's Typhoon Wutip, which flooded roads, uprooted trees, cut down power lines, and destroyed thousands of houses and some churches.

For some time the Diocese of Vinh, under Mgr Paul Nguyen Thai Hop, has been at the centre of a smear campaign promoted by government leaders.

The situation worsened on 4 September, when hundreds of members of My Yen parish took to the streets to demand the release of two Catholics who have been in prison for months even though they did not commit any crime.

Police responded by attacking protesters, wounding and arresting dozens of people. In the following days, the bishop strongly condemned the violent repression.

For local sources, Thai Van Hang is behind the attacks against Catholics, leading a smear campaign on local and national media against Mgr Paul and the entire diocese.

The province's deputy chief issued a harsh press release, which he sent to every Vietnamese bishop. In it, he asked them to isolate the bishop of Vinh and transfer him to another place because of an interview he did with AsiaNews on 18 September.

In the interview, the prelate said that Christians were in a "dangerous and troubling" situation and appealed to the international community for an end to the repeated violations of human rights and the release of the two Catholics in My yen.

In the letter defending his confrere, the bishop of Kontum rejected the deputy chief's accusations and listed the attacks that "myself have suffered" over the years and that "closely resemble the incidents of My Yen, namely events involving the Hieu Dao Church (1975), the Duc Ninh Church (1982), Le Chi Church lands (1996), and the anti-Catholic persecution in K'bang and Kon Chro (2010), Turia Yop (2012), and the latest, still painful incident in Dak Pan.

In all these cases, Mgr Michael Hoang Duc Oanh explained, the authorities said they acted "for the common good" against people who "committed all sorts of sins," like causing public disorder, attacking officials and trying to overthrow the legitimate government.

For the prelate, the authorities must "stop telling lies to the people" and carrying out physical and verbal attacks against Catholics. Instead, they should respect religious freedom and people's political and civil rights.

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