03/12/2012, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Police threatens violence against Cồn Dầu Catholics

by Nguyen Hung
Since 2010, Đà Nẵng authorities want to knock down the Cồn Dầu parish church and cemetery to build a tourist resort. Police and officials raid the homes of families who have not yet left, threaten the vicar who must leave the parish within three months.

Đà Nẵng (AsiaNews) - Cồn Dầu Catholics can expect another crackdown. Police said it would use violence against anyone who resisted relocation to allow for the construction of a tourist facility. In the last few days, a dozen police agents and state officials have raided the homes of families that have not yet moved since the government issued the removal order two years ago.

In 2010, Đà Nẵng authorities ordered the demolition of Cồn Dầu parish church and cemetery and the homes around them to build a hotel and tourist resort without compensation or help in relocation. The parish was founded 135 years ago.

In their latest action, police threatened the parish vicar, Fr Emmanuel Nguyễn Tấn Lực. "In his homily, Fr Emmanuel said that he had to sign the demolition permit and remove the crucifix from the cemetery," some parishioners told AsiaNews. After that, bulldozers will knock down the area. The cemetery still contains the graves of many parishioners, whose family refused to comply with the eviction order. Some 50 children are buried under the altar."

Members of the congregation are also concerned about the vicar. The authorities ordered him to stop all his pastoral activities within three months. Many wonder whether the bishop, Mgr Joseph Châu Ngọc Tri, was forced to sign Fr Emmanuel's transfer orders or whether there are ulterior motives.

The area affected in Cồn Dầu covers ten hectares, including the cemetery, where parishioners laid their dearly departed for 135 years.

In the past, the government had designated the graveyard as an historical site to be protected. However, on 4 May 2010, police stopped the funeral procession of Maria Tan, 82, and prevented her from being laid to rest.

Clashes between some 500 parishioners and police agents followed, leaving left scores of Catholics wounded and 59 arrested.

At the time, the authorities took away Maria Tan's body and cremated it against her expressed wishes. In fact, she wanted to be buried next to her husband.

 

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