09/11/2013, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Religions united in defence of the diocese of Vinh under attack from Communist authorities

by J.B. An Dang
Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhists religious leaders have come together to express their closeness to the local bishop and Catholic community, currently under attack by the authorities and victims of a smear campaign by official media. Unanimously appalled by the "deceitful" and "ruthless actions" of Nghe An provincial leaders, they call on the international community to defend human rights in Vietnam.

Vinh (AsiaNews ) - A number of Vietnamese religious leaders from various faiths has issued a a press release in support of the Catholic Church and the bishop of Vinh at a time when the latter are under a violent defamatory attack by official media and local authorities.

The statement, signed by the representatives of various group, was released yesterday. In it, the signatories express sympathy and solidarity with the diocese and its members for leading the fight for people's rights against the abuses by local government and police.

The members of My Yen Parish, which is at the centre of the dispute, have been calling for the liberation of two fellow members in jail since last June without any formal charge against them.

In light of the My Yen affair, Catholic officials, leaders of other Christian denominations, Cao Dai followers and members of the Hoa Hao Central Buddhist Church, many of whom have also been victims of government violence, have expressed their "unanimous support" for and closeness to the bishop and the local Catholic Church, who are the victims of "deviant, violent, devious and ruthless actions" by Nghe An authorities.

Equally, local authoriites, the armed forces and official media were unanimously criticised for the use of violent methods, twisting the facts, and trying to harm the integrity of Bishop Paul Nguyen Thai Hop and all the religious in his diocese in order to carry out their criminal designs.

In their address to Nghe An provincial leaders, the religious leaders called on them to find better ways to settle disputes and reduce the social tensions that have been simmering for a long time in the province. They also want a stop to abuses and anonymous seizures because, they warn, the perpetrators will eventually be judged "by international law or divine justice."

With this in mind, they urge people, at home and abroad, to come out against the crimes committed by Communist authorities and to show solidarity with the victims of their acts of violence.

In the recent past, the Vietnamese government has been involved for some time in a campaign of repression against bloggers, activists and dissidents seeking religious freedom, respect for civil rights, or the end of the one-party state. A petition has been launched for that purpose.

In 2013 alone, Hanoi has arrested more than 40 activists for crimes "against the state", a legal notion human rights groups consider too general and vague.

The Catholic Church has also been subjected to constraints and restrictions; its members, victims of persecution.

In one case back in January, a Vietnamese court sentenced 14 people, including some Catholics, to prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, a ruling criticised forcefully by and human rights activists and movements.

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