05/21/2009, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Tensions continue between Catholic groups and Vietnamese authorities

by Emily Nguyen
The faithful of Thai Binh have refused to take part in celebrations marking the birthday of Ho Chi Minh, while in Son La they succeeded in meeting with an American delegation despite attempts to block the encounter.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – Tensions persist between Catholic groups and the Vietnamese authorities: the faithful of Thai Binh refused to take part in celebrations marking the birthday of “uncle Ho”, as the “the father of the homeland” is called, in Ho Chi Minh, while in Son La others succeeded in describing the daily abuse thy have been subjected to for years to a delegation from the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), despite attempts to impede the encounter.

Son La, where for years local authorities have attempted to stifle all forms of religious life, was one of the main stops on USCIRF’s itinerary. Local authorities tried their best to prevent the meeting. Days prior to the arrival of the USCIRF delegation, Catholics in Son La had been warned that they would “severely violate the law” should they come to talk with the delegation.

The location of the meeting had originally been set up at a private home, used as a house church for the faithful over the years at the generosity of its owner. At the last minute, the government changed the location to the town hall where they could easily limit proceedings. They also sought to prevent a meeting between the delegation and Trinh Xuan Thuy, the owner of the house church, who has been continually harassed by local officials. Thuy had just returned from medical treatment in Hanoi and was still too ill to attend the meeting at the new location. 

On May 19th, however, the American delegation decided to make a surprise visit to Thuy (see photo) where the were able to hear testimony of the abuse believers are subjected to.  In front of the very officials who deny them their religious freedom, the faithful appealed to the American government to act rapidly to bring about real change in the authorities policies, to make it possible for them to practise their faith.

On the very same day in Thai Binh, Catholics led a boycott of celebrations marking the birthday of “uncle Ho”, in protest of the authorities attempts to bloc, using all available means, their pilgrimage to the Redemptorist jubilee at Thai Ha. 

Recalling how they had been blocked in their homes, forced to get off buses and walk for miles, Catholics in Thai Binh and in particular the female band from Cam Chau parish rejected the authorities invitation to take part, believing their participation would be considered one more “instrument” with which to promote the political event, in front of the very officials who deny them their right to practise their religion.

 

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