09/02/2014, 00.00
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Vietnamese Catholics pray with Pope Francis for Christians in Iraq and peace in Ukraine

by Paul N. Hung

More than 4,000 people attend Mass for oppressed minorities and victims of violence perpetrated by the Islamic state. For priest in Thái Hà, "only the love of Jesus can overcome hatred." Prayers provide an opportunity to defend religious freedom in Vietnam and the country against Chinese imperialism.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) - In response to an appeal by Pope Francis, who asked for prayers on behalf of persecuted Christians in Iraq and for peace in Ukraine, more than 4,000 faithful met in Thái Hà parish, Hanoi.

Starting last Sunday, thousands of Catholics in the capital are taking party in daily Masses and prayer vigils in solidarity with the minorities persecuted, oppressed, abused and slaughtered by the militias of the Islamic state in the Middle East.

The images of Jihadist violence and terror in Iraq and Syria, which include people crucified or beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, have shaken Vietnam's Christian community, which has responded with prayers and Eucharistic celebrations to reiterate their right to religious freedom at home.

The Internet and social media are full of images of massacres in Iraq and Syria, including Vietnamese language those websites, showing Christians and members of other minorities killed because of their religious affiliation, for refusing to give in to Islamist madness, or choosing to "embrace death rather than renounce their faith."

In addition to peace in Ukraine (and the world) and an end to persecution in Iraq, Sunday's Mass in Thái Hà provided an opportunity to think about the country, which has been threatened in recent years by China's imperialist policy in the seas.

Many fear that Hanoi's political and economic subordination to Beijing could undermine Vietnam's freedom, rights, and defence. This is a real danger, since the government of Vietnam recently sentenced three activists to please its senior Communist party.

During his Sunday homily, Fr John Ngọc Quynh Luu said that "only the love of Jesus is able to overcome hatred."

"In the face of cruelty, we are not alone," he added, "because we can benefit from the shelter offered by the cross of Jesus, who died to eradicate hatred" from the earth.

At the end of the celebration in Thái Hà, Redemptorist priests in Hanoi and 4,000 worshipers prayed at the shrine of Our Lady for justice for peace in Iraq, and the Ukraine and for true religious freedom in Vietnam.

"In the history of humanity, every type of dictatorship and all atheist regimes have pursued a policy of annihilation of religions, but no power can defeat the faith of the people."

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