06/14/2016, 18.35
VIETNAM
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Lào Cai: police break up Mass, beat and arrest the faithful

by Nguyen Lan

At least 30 officers interrupted Fr Nguyen Van Thanh as he was celebrating the service. Participants were forced out, beaten and arrested. One said he does not understand why he was treated “like a criminal”.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Two days ago, at least 30 government agents stormed a house used as a church in Muong Khuong, a district in Lào Cai province, near the Chinese border. Police not only interrupted the Mass that was underway but also beat those present.

Fr Nguyen Van Thanh, who was celebrating the service, was told to stop. He and his congregation were pushed around and shoved out of the building. Police agents also hit a youth and took two people into custody, including a 14-year-old.

"Among the policemen who broke in there was also Nguyễn Quốc Hương, district vice-president, and two vice-presidents of other governmental organisations,” Trần T.T told AsiaNews.

According to T.L Phan, who was also present, Hương was behind the "order to have the police come to church. The agents threatened the parishioners and summoned Fr Văn Thành to the district police to be interrogated'. "

The agents beat T. "I do not understand why they arrested me and beat me up like I was a criminal. They choked me, and banged my head against the wall. They took me to Muong Khuong People's Committee and deleted all the files on my mobile phone. Now I have pain in my neck."

Once at the police station, T. was "forced to admit that I had endangered security and had caused disorder in the community. The police forced me to write a report and sign a statement that I would no longer go to church. I did not sign. "

Communist authorities in Lào Cai have recently cracked down harsh on local Christians, preventing them from registering their places of worship, declaring every Christian meeting as illegal.

"We have asked many times local authorities to let us build a small church,” some parishioners said, “but they have always refused. Therefore, we have to rent houses for Mass. "

For police, " priests have no right to celebrate Mass and parishioners have no right to participate. If we do, we are guilty of disturbances. However, in doing so, Muong Khuong District violates the Constitution, which recognises freedom of worship."

Despite threats from the authorities, believers in the northern mountainous areas will not give up. "We hope the government creates the conditions that will enable us to have a church,” Trần T.T explained. “Every day we celebrate Mass and pray for our families and society.”

"I am a Catholic,” he noted. “I went to the authorities and said that I wanted to donate my land to build a church. They did not let me to do it."

According to a report published last February by the Association for the defence of religious freedom, there are 14 different religions and 38 religious organisations in Communist-ruled Vietnam.

Out of a population of 90 million, some 24 million hold religious beliefs. About 78,000 are members of various clergies with 23,000 places of worship.

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