01/16/2016, 19.08
VIETNAM

Religious freedom attacked again with Catholics and Buddhists as the main target

The Liên Tôn Association, which includes Catholics, Protestants, Buddhists, and Caodaists, denounces the first three cases of the new year. The authorities have prevented Hoa Hao Buddhists from celebrating the birth of their founder. The Benedictine monastery in Thien An (Hue), and a priest in Vinh were also targeted.

 

 

Hanoi (AsiaNews/ÉdA) – Vietnamese authorities started the new year with new violent attacks against freedom of religion and worship, and those exercise this right, this according to the Liên Tôn (Interfaith) Association, which brings together Catholic, Protestant, Caodaist, Hoa Hao Buddhists and Unified Church leaders.

Active for years in defending freedom of worship, the group on 9 January posted its latest report online. In it, it slams Vietnam’s regime for its repressive attitude towards religions.

Signed by 23 religious leaders, including Protestant and Catholic clergymen, the statement was reposted by Églises d'Asie (EdA). In it, the authors highlight several attacks that have already occurred this year, and call on the authorities to respect religious freedom.

The first one involved the Hoa Hao Buddhist community, which was prevented from celebrating the 96th birthday of the founder, the Venerable Huynh Phu So. The main ceremony was scheduled for New Year’s Day in Long Giang, An Giang province, but police blocked all access roads and banned any celebration in the town. During the operation, police also wounded and mistreated some of the devotees, including a few who were elderly. This happens practically every year.

The next day, 2 January, the Benedictine monastery of Thien An, near Hue, was targeted. According to eyewitnesses, some 200 agents, militia and members of the local Women’s Federation stormed the compound. The authorities had their eyes on the property for years, and have already seized one section, turning into a leisure centre. The monks tried to resist the raid but were physically attacked. The attackers seized the camera the monks used to document the incident.

Catholics were also the target of a third attack, in Vinh, already the scene of past acts of violence and abuse by the authorities. This week, some 20 thugs attacked a priest, as he returned to his parish church after a medical examination. The attack, which left the priest seriously wounded, took place before the eyes of the local police who made a point not to intervene.

Fr Dang Huu Nam’s action in favour of human rights and freedoms, including freedom of worship, was behind the attack. The clergyman has in fact led the fight against expropriations of Church property. He has also tried to obtain the release of 14 Catholics unjustly arrested in 2011, for which he received many death threats.

In a country of 87 million people, Buddhists are 48 per cent of the population; Catholics just over 7 per cent, followed by Syncretists at 5.6 per cent. Atheists represent 20 per cent.

Although Christians are a minority, they are active in the fields of education, health and social welfare.

Recently, Vietnam’s Catholic bishops criticised a bill on faith and religion that fails to uphold the principle of freedom of religion and effectively limits its practice. In their view, the new legislation also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, both of which guarantee freedom of worship.

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