09/29/2009, 00.00
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New state media smear campaign against Catholics in Vietnam

by J.B. An Dang
TV and newspapers attack prelates, priests and faithful. They blame the Archbishop of Hue, guilty of having condemned the confiscation of the school of Loan Ly and the brutal police violence. At Vinh bulldozers ready to demolish an image of Our Lady of La Vang.

Hue (AsiaNews) - Media in Hue have launched a campaign of "verbal attacks" against Archbishop Nguyen Nhu Stephen The and his auxiliary Francis Xavier Le Van Hong. The prelates are being targeted for having condemned the confiscation of a Catholic school in the parish of Loan Ly, Phu Loc district, and the brutal police violence against the Vietnamese faithful who were protesting against the misappropriation of their land.

In response to the bishops, the television in Hue has "opened fire" with a series of interviews in which the alleged faithful attack the prelates, condemning their behaviour. Added to this there is a current campaign by Vietnamese newspapers against Father Joseph Ngo Thanh Son, pastor of Loan Ly, charged with conspiracy and of heading the protests on 13 September. The accusation however is unfounded, because Fr. Joseph has spent several weeks in hospital and was not in the church when the incident erupted.

Loan Ly parish school was built in 1956 and confiscated from the faithful in 1975, following the fall of the former Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and the ouster of President Nguyen Van Thieu. In the following decades the Vietnamese communist regime allowed the teaching of catechism, provided that the lessons took place in front of a picture of "Uncle Ho" instead of the Christian cross. The night between 13 and 14 September, security men and thugs surrounded the parish, and with violence and brutality, forced the faithful to leave school, building a wall around it.  

The attacks against Catholics in Vietnam are spreading throughout different parts of the country. In the diocese of Vinh, Father John Nguyen Van Huu denounces "the ultimatum" imposed by the authorities of the province of Quang Binh, who demand the "immediate removal" of a statue dedicated to Our Lady of La Vang. Officials have conducted a veritable campaign to destroy Catholic symbols. On September 27, thousands of Catholics gathered in defence of the monument, over which the threat of bulldozers hang (pictured) ready to knock it down.

The People's Committee of Dong Da finally threatened to confiscate church property near the lake of Ba Giang, putting them under the administration of the state. The faithful have begun a protest campaign, against which the authorities deployed hundreds of police agents and dogs. So far there have been no reports of clashes.



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