11/29/2012, 00.00
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Vietnamese Catholics continue their fight for peace and religious freedom

by Nguyen Hung
The country's Communist rulers, courts and police continue to arrest, unjustly try and convict people for alleged "anti-state" activities. At least 17 Christians have been arbitrarily detained recently, joining more than 70 political dissidents already in prison. In one case, an unfairly detained high school teacher is helping fellow prisoners, some on death row. Masses and prayer vigils are held in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) - Catholics and other Vietnamese Christians continue their battle against illegal arrests and human rights violations by local and central authorities by organising prayer vigils and Masses with the participation of members of other religions and non-believers. However, the country's ruling Communists, police and the courts appear unwilling to relent the wave of repression that has led in the past two years to dozens of arrests, trials and arbitrary detentions in violation of international and even local law.

Today for instance, 17 young Catholic and Protestants were unjustly jailed, some convicted without trial. The government's wrath fell on activists, dissidents and patriots "guilty" of promoting protests against China and its "imperialist" policies.

The latest figures indicate that at least 70 dissidents are currently held in Vietnamese prisons after being convicted by local courts. Some are ill or have contracted diseases in prison.

The six-year sentence imposed on Dinh Dang Dinh, a high school teacher, by a court in Da Nang on 21 November on charges of anti-state propaganda is one such case. In his case, police has tried to downplay the affair and has harassed the family with threats.

Held In prison with inmates on death row, the teacher has tried to bring them some comfort to endure fear and suffering.

Similarly, a court in Nghe An province (which is part of Vinh Diocese, scene of fierce anti-Christian persecution) is set to convict two young men also on alleged anti-state activities: Francis Dang Xuan Dieu, 33, and Paul Tran Minh Nhat, 24.

Despite receiving "corporal punishment," they have refused to give up their faith. Before their arrest, the two were involved in social activities in association with their parish, including helping children and the disabled.

Vietnamese Catholics have responded to the growing repression by a campaign of prayers and Masses celebrated on behalf of peace in the country and respect for religious freedom.

Last Sunday, Redemptorists in the former Saigon celebrated Mass during which prayers were said for peace and justice.

During the homily, Father Dominique addressed Catholics and non-Catholics present at the service, urging to turn their thoughts to all "those who have been or will be victims of unjust convictions."

"We share prayers and communion for peace and justice in our nation," the clergyman said in concluding his address.

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